Ideas for the Mobility Strategy

Encourage BYOD Policies in Agencies to Save Money

75% of enterprises now have "Bring Your Own Device' (BYOD) policies, according to the Aberdeen Group. Given the power, availability, and relative affordability of today's smartphones and tablets, the Federal government cannot keep up on technology and shouldn't have to. Instead, provide standard mobile data management (MDM) security protocols to allow employees to use their own, privately owned devices. Agencies should provide a monthly stipend to defer the cost of wireless services


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  1. Comment
    Pierrette McIntire

    GAO has not issued any decisions concerning reimbursement of personal mobile phone plans since 2001 (B-287524, Oct. 22, 2001) and 2003 (B-291076, Mar. 6, 2003)- both of which denied stipend-based reimbursement. 2007 decision to PTO concerning reimbursement for residential high-speed internet plans(B‑308044, Jan. 10, 2007) seems slightly more flexible, with 50% or 100% reimbursement options, but was related to 4-day/week telework use. Recommend that GAO or OMB outline how a stipend-based system might be implemented for all federal agencies (using current 2011 voice/data plan examples), to provide some common guidance. Each agency should not have to re-invent the wheel and then individually seek a GAO decision (4-month process). Stipend-based reimbursement would create a great incentive for govt employees to give up their govt Blackberry for use of personally owned device. Especially those who are carrying around two phones (one govt, one personal). This would reduce govt cost and provide individual choice. Win/win.

  2. Comment
    Fed user

    Many people are doing BYOD out of necessity. It simply takes too long for an organization to do security reviews of new hardware and platforms, and this is understandable considering the now ridiculously short lifecycle for mobile computing devices. Separation of government apps/data from the user's personal device apps/data will be necessary for security. We all know the weakest link for security is often the user, so this last point is a critical one.

  3. Comment
    Ben Ellison

    Actually, the GAO did not deny the stipend reimbursement - but the provisions they put on them (line-item by line-item phone bill verification) weren't feasible. The telecom industry (and phone bills/plans) have changed significantly since then, and line-by-line costs aren't even necessarily available now.

  4. Comment

    While I agree with the concept of BYOD (and it's cost saving benefits) I am concerned on privacy issues that could arise from government vs. personal data stored/accessed on the device. If the government pays the bill for the service and I pay for the device itself. Who owns the picture/video/content stored on the device?

    Comments on this comment

    1. Comment
      Ben Ellison

      The government (likely) wouldn't be able to own anything that wasn't related to the conduct of official government business. Further, I doubt any 'personal' data would be FOIA-able... likely that would need to be redacted out of any FOIA requests (although I defer to FOIA experts). This concern would/could be greatly mitigated by further development (and deployment) of sandboxed or virtual machines on mobile devices (e.g. your phone/tablet has two "personalities" that can be switched between). I know VMWare is making some progress in this arena - I'm just not sure where it's at from an Enterprise management standpoint.

  5. Comment

    I'm not sure if I'm "pro" or "con" on BYOD, but what I do know is that there needs to be a more consistent policy across the USG about what's acceptable.

    For example, is it ok for a Federal employee to sign "App Store" ToS with a Government email address for a Gov. device? What about a contractor using a Gov. device with a personal iTunes account?

    Questions like that don't need to be specific to each agency and would benefit from a consistent with few exceptions, rather than constant exceptions with few consistencies.

  6. Comment

    ..... there's these little things called federal law and computer security......

  7. Comment

    This idea is long overdue. How many federal employees carry two cell phones -- one private, and one personal? Or, perhaps worse, how many federal employees use their government cell phone as their personal device?

    This idea could save a fortune just by deflecting tech support from internal/contractor to the hardware vendor.

    That I would also get the equipment I prefer would also eliminate whining about how the federal government is always on technology's trailing edge. For those of us who are geeks, it's incredibly important and valuable that we bring first-hand experience with the latest technology to our government work.

    With regard to the security challenges, address them. The content resides in the cloud, not on the device. It is entirely possible to make these devices secure.

    Let's just do it.

    Comments on this comment

    1. Comment
      Terrence Hill ( Idea Submitter )

      I couldn't agree more! You took the words right out of my mouth! Security is always the red-herring, but solvable. There aren't too many ideas that will actually save money and make our lives easier.

  8. Comment
    Mark Samblanet

    I believe many Federal employees (and contractors) use their own devices regardless of the policy or any reimbursement. It just makes their life simpler. I believe every one of them signed an agreement to protect confidentiality of data and this would extend to their personal devices. More important is to TRAIN THE USER in the do's and don'ts of using their own devices. Training has been an integral part of any information security practice and should be extended to include user-owned devices, whether smart phones, laptops, or other devices (keep in mind that smart TVs are on the way and people will be accessing data through their TVs soon).

  9. Comment
    Nikolay Bakaltchev

    As the technology innovation cycle continues to accelerate, BYOD will be probably even harder to avoid in the future for any public or private enterprise or government entity. The question is what are the steps necessary to support it in terms of security and manageability? Standard Identity Mnagement at Federal level seems to be a key component of the solution.