Bring Your Own Device programs have pushed federal agencies to reconsider what technologies are implemented and how they are used. With many BYOD pilot programs sprouting up from both the defense and the civilian side, agencies are testing out new ways to procure, manage, and maintain devices that were once thought of as consumer only. Department of Veteran Affairs is no exception. Under the leadership of DJ Kachman, head of mobility, the Department of Veterans Affairs has led the way in leveraging technology to improve service delivery to men and women who have served America and their families.
However, this has not always been the case. In fact, the VA had previously been extremely cautious about the adoption of BYOD programs because of cybersecurity concerns and, more recently, legal issues over access to personal data stored on personal devices. For Stephan Warren, acting CIO, the VA needed to “determine what my rights are as a private individual and what my rights are as a VA employee.”
Despite these red flags, the VA has been positioned as a leader in the federal government for BYOD largely because of a grass roots movement by doctors in VA hospitals intent on providing better service to their patients. As early as 2010 VA doctors were using cloud-based services such as Google Docs to schedule surgeries and accessing the data, including sensitive patient information, from their iPads. And, while reluctant, both Roger Baker, the former VA CIO, and now Warren, accepted that their hand had been forced by tech-savvy group of employees.
Enter DJ Kachman, the VA’s “mobile guy.”
While he shares the broad concerns around cybersecurity and data rights and privacy, he’s also a realist about where the agency is headed when it comes to BYOD. In a WashingtonExec profile Kachman commented that BYOD brings “some great advantages from the perspective of its pushing government to really expand its scope of what we are able to use in the government.”
Ever the pragmatist, to the list of concerns about adopting BYOD, Kachman adds the inherent complications brought about by the pressure to add more devices and allow more applications to be approved for use. To this end, Kachman has made sure to include mobile security education for employees in the VA’s BYOD rollout plan. In his eyes “[i]t’s easier for us as an agency to tell employees, ‘these are all of the configuration controls and security controls you are putting on this device,’ because then they will understand. They do it at home, and when they come to work we expect the same thing. That is probably one of the most important tips for any agency.”
Lewis Carr, Senior Director, World-Wide Software Industry Market Development for HP Software’s Federal Solutions division is pleased that the VA is putting security front and center when planning out their BYOD programs. The trend towards BYOD can be “problematic given the vast majority of security threats that are introduced at the code level. If security is not included in the lifecycle development of apps and tools and practices then the opportunity for exposure is much higher.”
With security top of mind and a eye toward the future, Kachman expects that over the coming year we will see more “technology that provides tighter integration of multiple devices into a single device that can meet many different missions, as well as the rules, laws, and policies in the federal space. With the type of visionary technology leadership, the Department of Veterans Affairs is poised to tackle the key challenges of doing the work of government in an era of tight budgets and rapid change.