$383: Coast Guard CIO creates innovative mobility model

2012_08_robertday U.S. Coast Guard Chief Information Officer Rear Admiral Robert Day (Photo: FedScoop/David Stegon)

The budget environment at the U.S. Coast Guard is so tight that Chief Information Officer Rear Admiral Robert Day can’t get the authority to do backroom support for mobile devices.

Despite the restriction, more than 8,000 service members are able to do mobile work thanks to a simple but effective financing program implemented by Day: If a part of the Coast Guard wants mobility – they pay for it one user at a time.


“The individual units decide if they want the service and then it’s up to them to find money in their specific budgets to pay for it,” said Day, who has been the Coast Guard CIO the past three years. “I’m happy to provide the service, but there just isn’t room in my budget.”

Day charges the units $383 a year per user in the chargeback model that provides users with enterprise e-mail access on Android and iOS devices.

He said the Coast Guard is looking into enterprise application access to the mobile environment in the near future, but Day is still not at a comfort level with the security of mobile devices for this purpose.

“I’m not going to make this device an endpoint on my network. There’s just no way,” Day said. “What we’ve done is create a secure sandbox inside of the device that can be managed, fixed and certified to operate our enterprise e-mail capability.

Outside mobility, Day said he is looking to consolidate the branch’s four data centers into one, but he faces a unique challenge as the Coast Guard falls underneath both the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.


His challenge is determining which of his systems going into a DOD run data center and which go with DHS.

“Some of our IT applications are very .gov facing, because of our numerous missions across the fed, local and state and even private environments. These seem to be best suited for a .gov implementation within the DHS framework, while there are other systems we have that fit best into a .mil environment,” said Day.

The data center consolidation is one of many efficiency initiatives that Day has been leading. One that has made him most proud is his implementation of an enterprise wide IT help desk.

Over the past 18 months, the Coast Guard has taken nine regional computer help desks spread across the country and centralized them into one.  The regional desks were only open parts of the day, whereas the enterprise implantation operates 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.

Day also created easy to remember 1-855 numbers (855-CG-FIX-IT) to provide easy access to help desk support.


These types of efficiencies are key as the Coast Guard faces an overhaul of its fleet, as many boats have been in operation for more than 30 years. With money being spent on the recapitalization, it leaves little left for IT, but Day is finding ways to make it work.

“The key for us is finding efficiencies at every turn,” Day said. “There are financial pressures, but finding smart and cost-effective solutions will help us make sure we’re always getting the most for what we spend.”

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