After months of soldiers complaining that security features on the Army’s new email platform were preventing them from doing basic tasks, the Army’s top IT official announced a change to the Army 365 download policy in a Monday LinkedIn post.
Army Times previously reported the frustration that some soldiers were experiencing because the new email platform initially did not allow users to download files or send email attachments if they were not on a government network.
Currently, only government computers — which are in short supply, especially for Guard and Reserve units — are the only way to connect to the network from home, although the Army plans to expand a “bring-your-own-device” pilot. Iyer said that issues with the defense budget in Congress are “stalling progress” on that initiative, though.
That left many part-time troops with no way to complete even basic administrative tasks like signing a PDF document outside of drill weekend unless they traveled to an armory. Some active-duty units also suffer from a deficit of working government computers, leaving their troops to sometimes do such tasks on personal devices.
“We heard your feedback loud and clear,” said Army chief information officer Raj Iyer in the post. “The inability to download and digitally sign PDF files and forms from Army365 Email using your personal devices has been a pain for many of you — especially for the Guard and Reserve.”
The service’s first-ever civilian chief information officer explained that the rapid rollout of Army 365 had necessitated the security measures.
“When we initially rolled out Army365 we were not ready to address the Cybersecurity risks associated with allowing users to download/ upload files from your personal devices,” Iyer said. “We now have a solution that we are currently implementing to enable you to do just that.”
But the security restrictions on downloads ironically created another security risk — soldiers were working around the restrictions by sending documents to their personal email addresses, potentially putting sensitive information at risk by inadvertently breaking information handling procedures.
The policy changes should go into effect “in the next few days,” Iyer added.
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army. He focuses on investigations, personnel concerns and military justice. Davis, also a Guard veteran, was a finalist in the 2023 Livingston Awards for his work with The Texas Tribune investigating the National Guard's border missions. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill.