TSA analyzes mobile needs before deployment

Thursday - 9/20/2012, 9:29pm EDT

Dr. Emma Garrison-Alexander, CIO, TSA

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By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

Before the Transportation Security Administration gives an employee a new mobile device, it conducts a series of use cases.

Dr. Emma Garrison-Alexander, TSA's chief information officer, said the goal is to make sure employees have the right device to match up with their mission requirements.

"I like for us not to be nearly as perspective as to say, in the past we've been more like that, ‘Here's your device, use this device to get your job done and we hope it meets all of your needs,'" she said. "We really are trying to make sure we better mesh technology with the needs of the organization. Better IT alignment to the business needs is really a goal we have here."

Garrison-Alexander said they have developed use cases around the legal office, office of security operations and public affairs.

"We do pilots that allow us to test out those use cases and see how we can match the right technology to their needs," she said. "The use cases are a really important part of our methodology for determining what the end user needs are, and then being able to bring to bear the technology on a much broader scale for the organization."

Garrison-Alexander said many times employees want a smartphone or tablet computer because that's what they use in their personal lives. But the devices don't always work well in the workplace.

"Through some of the use cases, we were able to figure out initially one device seemed like it was the right solution, it turns out a different device or a different application is the right solution," she said. "The use cases allow us through the initial operating capability time frame to work through all those issues so we can get to a final operating capability that matches up with the users' needs."

Garrison-Alexander said she takes this type of collaborative approach in all of TSA's IT initiatives.

For instance, TSA is one of the lead agencies around both moving to the Homeland Security Department's private cloud for test and development services, and around cybersecurity and the development of a continuous monitoring framework.

DHS is providing as many as 12 private-cloud services in its two data centers.

Garrison-Alexander said she hopes to begin using test-and-development-as-a-service in the coming months.

"We really are taking advantage of cost savings and the optimization," she said. "The service offerings coming out of the department, whether they originate there or if it's a service developed by a component and transitioned over to the department for enterprise use across all of DHS is very important and I believe with some of the budget challenges we have today and that will most likely be there in future the as-a-service offerings are very important from an innovation and cost savings standpoint going forward."

TSA currently is doing test and development services in its own data centers. By moving to the private cloud, it could shut down those systems and services.

The agency also is consolidating into DHS's data centers. Garrison-Alexander said TSA moved two data centers, is in the process of consolidating a third one and is developing a plan for the other two.

She added TSA also is strongly considering the email-as-a-service offering in the private cloud. She expects it to reduce the agency's costs and give them better access to updated capabilities.

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