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DoD’s new mobile device plan looks to get more phones, tablets to troops

by Matt Cox on February 28, 2013

The Pentagon unveiled a new plan that would give it greater control over the smartphone and tablet usage of U.S. military personnel with the aim of getting more of these devices in servicemembers’ hands.

The Defense Department’s new Commercial Mobile Device Implementation Plan will focus on “improving three areas critical to mobility: mobile devices, wireless infrastructure, and mobile applications, and works to ensure these areas remain reliable, secure and flexible enough to keep up with fast-changing technology,” according to a Feb. 26 Pentagon release.

In 2013, many troops and defense analysts say it’s about time. The military pays upwards of $3,000 per Blackberry for the security system to read classified data. Under this new plan, the Defense Department is confident it can work with commercial vendors to significantly cut those costs and outfit more troops with smartphones and tablets capable of carrying classified data.

Many troops own smartphones and iPads whose technology far exceed the dated Blackberries most often issued by the military. Defense leaders see this plan as a step toward helping the military catch up to current technology.

“This is not simply about embracing the newest technology — it is about keeping the department’s workforce relevant in an era when information accessibility and cyber security play a critical role in mission success,” said Teri Takai, Defense Department chief information officer, in the release.

The implementation plan is intended to set up a framework to equip the department’s 600,000 mobile-device users with secure, classified and protected unclassified mobile solutions that leverage commercial off-the-shelf products, the release states. It would also promote the development and use of mobile applications to improve functionality, decrease costs, and increase personal productivity, DoD officials said.

“The Department of Defense is taking a leadership role in leveraging mobile device technology by ensuring its workforce is empowered with mobile devices,” Takai said.

The effort is designed to support DoD’s Mobile Device Strategy with specific goals and objectives in order to capitalize on the full potential of mobile devices.

The Pentagon’s senior leadership recognizes mobile technology as a critical tool for joint force combat operations as long as it is managed properly, according to a DoD memo detailing the new plan.

“Commercial mobile technologies enable users to rapidly support their mission requirements through the discovery, purchase, and installation of mission-capable mobile applications. However, the rapid development of mobile technology requires a corresponding set of organizational processes to provide such applications,” the memo states.

What the Defense Department really wants is a quicker process to develop, purchase, certify and distribute these smartphones and tablets, according to the memo. To do this, the military has to develop a new framework to streamline the process, the memo states.

The initial plan to provide an operational capability that will be offered as a subscription-based service. Plans will support 100,000 devices by early 2014 with additional service provided as requirements and funding dictate, the memo states.

“The DoD Mobile Device Strategy and implementation plan aim to align the various mobile devices, pilots and initiatives across the department under common objectives to ensure the warfighter benefits from these activities and aligns with efforts in the Joint Information Environment,” said Takai.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

JohnB February 28, 2013 at 12:29 am

Made in china ? Electronic devices and assemblies these days have to comply to lead-free and Reduction Of Hazardous Substances (ROHS) rules, then there is no way that we can not mandate and enforce DoD computing and access devices to be made in the US.

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Lance February 28, 2013 at 12:46 am

Or China will copy it for its Red Army.

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moondawg February 28, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Just one more thing for the enemy to either hack or jam. The winner will be the side that does not depend on electronics that can easily be taken out.

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respawnd March 1, 2013 at 7:50 pm

The $3,000 BlackBerry is probably the highly modified General Dynamics version. The new BlackBerry Z10 is already FIPS 140-2 certified and meets or exceeds Apple/Android usability standards.

Android is a joke in the security world, but DoD is plowing ahead with its plans to deploy Android based handsets. Apple iOS at least has a secure (encrypted) keychain to hold certs and passwords, but that does not provide protection from malicious apps.

Its going to come down to trusted components, both hardware and software, including the OS. Who has the anti-tamper, non-reverse engineerable hardware that prevents malicious software from executing or exfiltrating content?

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blight_ March 2, 2013 at 9:13 am

Let's give everyone laptops with Linux. That'll solve the problem! /sarc

Android and iOS won't be secure until there's demand from the consumers for it. BB has been a corporate/enterprise product for years, and the demand from those customers drove BB to emphasize security.

That said, as long as people don't use their iPads at home we should be fine. The military might get good results if they hard reset their iPads on a routine basis and hot-sync only what the user needs to defeat the possibility of malware/rootkit installs.

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Dan March 9, 2013 at 11:15 pm

New Blackberry 10 operating system should be the sole choice for DOD. The German government has chosen BB10 and is upgrading its governmental mobile system. NATO had tested and found BB10 is the only mobile operating system that meets NATO security requirement.

If no politics involved, I don't see any conclusion that will be a little bit far from the one above.

Blackberry has the most security and most advanced mobile communications system in the world!

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Dan March 9, 2013 at 11:19 pm

If US military does not want its security to be compromised by red Chinese army or Iran or North Korea. It's better not consider adopting andoit or ios operating systems.

The choice was and has been clear: Blackberry 10 Z/Q!

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blight_ February 28, 2013 at 11:49 am

Foxconn, the United States Army would like some smartphones…

Foxconn, People's Liberation Army 5th Cyberwarfare Division would like you to install this rootkit…

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