How the Army is embracing telework-friendly tech

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The Army is expanding its use of bring-your-own devices through a pilot program that’s expected to initially focus on National Guard and Reserve components as it rolls out Microsoft 365.

The Army is looking to support the service’s shift to telework by expanding its use of bring-your-own devices through a pilot program to start in the New Year, according to defense officials. 

“The pandemic has shown us that we need to prioritize user experience for our 1.4 million users worldwide because they are now working in a remote work environment,” Raj Iyer, the Army’s CIO, told reporters Dec. 14. That means operating in a hybrid work environment for the “immediate future” and “focusing on prioritizing communication and collaboration tools.”

The Army plans to start with the National Guard and Reserve components because their organizations are more mobile, officials said. The pilot, which will include mobile devices and virtual desktops, could also include other commands to evaluate how missions, such as training and logistics both domestically and internationally, are affected by having soldiers and personnel bring their own devices to work. 

Kenneth McNeil, the National Guard Bureau’s CIO and J6, said that high deployment rates in 2021 increased the need for soldiers to use personal devices for work. 

“Bring your own approved device was the vision of the army and the national guard post CVR and I agree 100% it's a game changer,” McNeil told reporters. 

The Army is still developing the framework for the pilot program and how many users will be included but officials expect it to be “significantly expanded” compared to the initial program this fall. 

The move is part of a broader effort to unify the Army’s enterprise and tactical network capabilities so that communications remain relatively seamless even in tough environments and conditions. 

Iyer said the service will focus on establishing tactical edge cloud computing to support theater commands in Europe and Indo-Pacific Commands. Moreover, on the enterprise side, the Army plans to “more aggressively” close on premise data centers as it ramps up cloud migrations in fiscal 2022, the CIO said.

The Army began migrating to Microsoft 365 earlier this year, but the transition from the temporary Commercial Virtual Remote system that was set up during the pandemic hasn’t been completely smooth, particularly as the new environment has a higher security threshold.

Lt. Gen. John B. Morrison, the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff, G-6,  said there had been some “friction” transitioning to the permanent version of Microsoft 365 as additional security measures were put in and users “lost the ability to do things like download information straight to your personal device.” 

So far, the Army has moved 50% of its users from the legacy defense enterprise email to Microsoft 365 with an expectation of getting at least 60% of users moved by the end of December, Morrison said.