Pentagon Forcing Workers to Use BlackBerry — Again

Army personnel “have been told that between now and whenever this ‘fixmo’ is online, their Droids and iThings are simply to become useless.”

A picture taken on October 12, 2011 in the French western city of Rennes shows (FromL) a Samsung phone, a Blackberry phone and an Iphone 4.
National Journal
Aliya Sternstein, Nextgov
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Aliya Sternstein, NextGov
Dec. 3, 2013, 5:42 a.m.

Some mil­it­ary mem­bers who were work­ing off Apple and An­droid-based smart­phones and tab­lets now must re­turn to us­ing older mod­el Black­Berrys be­cause of a se­cur­ity ser­vice switchover, ac­cord­ing to an email ob­tained by Nex­t­gov and con­firmed by Pentagon of­fi­cials.

The De­fense De­part­ment is build­ing a new mo­bile device man­age­ment sys­tem to mon­it­or gov­ern­ment-is­sued con­sumer smart­phones on mil­it­ary net­works, but it’s not yet ready for prime time.

Em­ploy­ees with­in at least one Army or­gan­iz­a­tion were forced to dis­con­nect iPhones, iPads and An­droid devices from their ex­ist­ing se­cur­ity ser­vice, Good Mo­bile Mes­saging, be­cause the Pentagon is de­ploy­ing a new de­part­mentwide sys­tem by Fixmo, states an email that ap­peared in an Army list­serve.

Army per­son­nel “have been told that between now and whenev­er this ‘fixmo’ is on­line, their Droids and iTh­ings are simply to be­come use­less,” the email said. The De­fense In­form­a­tion Sys­tems Agency is in the midst of trans­ition­ing smart­phone users in each mil­it­ary com­pon­ent to the full $16 mil­lion sys­tem.

“The vic­tim, er or­gan­iz­a­tion un­der mi­gra­tion offered their [Good] li­censes and serv­ers and ex­pert­ise to DISA, but were told no, don’t want it,” the email con­tin­ues. “Ex­pect­a­tion is that Droid and iTh­ing users will be device­less un­til March 2014 at earli­est, and they can either do without or go back to a BB 9930,” an older mod­el Black­Berry smart­phone, “So…..once again, we are go­ing to save money through con­sol­id­a­tion no mat­ter how much it costs.”

After a pro­posed buy­out of Black­Berry col­lapsed last month, Pentagon of­fi­cials em­phas­ized ef­forts to wean ser­vice mem­bers off re­li­ance on the com­pany’s devices. But of­fi­cials on Monday night ac­know­ledged Black­Berry will re­tain its po­s­i­tion in the de­part­ment’s mo­bile com­put­ing ar­sen­al for now.

“DISA will sup­port Black­Berry devices with the ex­ist­ing [Black­berry En­ter­prise Serv­er]. Dur­ing the trans­ition peri­od, DISA is not pro­vi­sion­ing new iOS/An­droid users on the ex­ist­ing serv­er,” Pentagon spokes­man Dami­en Pick­art said in an email. “We are delay­ing pro­vi­sion­ing of those devices un­til the [mo­bile device man­age­ment] en­vir­on­ment is ready in Jan 2014. We will pro­vi­sion new devices as rap­idly as pos­sible start­ing in Janu­ary 2014.”

The aim is to hook up 100,000 mil­it­ary per­son­nel and their gov­ern­ment-fur­nished Apple, Sam­sung, Black­Berry and oth­er con­sumer devices to the se­cur­ity ser­vice by Septem­ber 2014.

Some de­fense con­tract ana­lysts say the more pop­u­lar com­mer­cial devices may not meet bat­tle­field se­cur­ity stand­ards.

Ray Bjorklund, a long­time pro­cure­ment spe­cial­ist who now serves as pres­id­ent of Birch­Grove Con­sult­ing, spec­u­lated that “there may be a more fun­da­ment­al is­sue of device suit­ab­il­ity among the ma­jor man­u­fac­tur­ers and OS ver­sions.”

Ac­cord­ing to DISA ap­prov­al doc­u­ments, only Black­Berry phones and Play­book tab­lets have an “au­thor­ity to op­er­ate,” or ATO, on De­fense net­works — not An­droid, Apple or any oth­er device lines.

Bjorklund re­turned to the ques­tion raised by the list­serv email, about the short-term sac­ri­fices De­fense is mak­ing to po­ten­tially con­trol long-term costs.

“At what cost con­sol­id­a­tion? I am quite cer­tain the DoD has com­pleted some semb­lance of a busi­ness case for this pro­gram. However, I know it’s of­ten dif­fi­cult to ra­tion­al­ize busi­ness cases in the mil­it­ary based on some fu­ture ho­ri­zon,” he said. The ra­tionale of “spend money now to save money later” is a “stretch ra­tionale in daily gov­ern­ment op­er­a­tions. I hope the dis­rup­tion is worth it.”

More from Nex­t­Gov, our sis­ter site:

Bit­coin Users Lose $40 Mil­lion in Ap­par­ent Nar­cot­ics Bazaar Heist 

Health­ Per­forms Well After Mak­ing White House’s Re­pair Dead­line 

Navy De­ploys First High-Tech Sur­veil­lance Air­craft to Ok­inawa

What We're Following See More »
Morning Consult Poll: Clinton Decisively Won Debate
2 days ago

"According to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, the first national post-debate survey, 43 percent of registered voters said the Democratic candidate won, compared with 26 percent who opted for the Republican Party’s standard bearer. Her 6-point lead over Trump among likely voters is unchanged from our previous survey: Clinton still leads Trump 42 percent to 36 percent in the race for the White House, with Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson taking 9 percent of the vote."

Trump Draws Laughs, Boos at Al Smith Dinner
2 days ago

After a lighthearted beginning, Donald Trump's appearance at the Al Smith charity dinner in New York "took a tough turn as the crowd repeatedly booed the GOP nominee for his sharp-edged jokes about his rival Hillary Clinton."

McMullin Leads in New Utah Poll
2 days ago

Evan McMul­lin came out on top in a Emer­son Col­lege poll of Utah with 31% of the vote. Donald Trump came in second with 27%, while Hillary Clin­ton took third with 24%. Gary John­son re­ceived 5% of the vote in the sur­vey.

Quinnipiac Has Clinton Up by 7
2 days ago

A new Quin­nipi­ac Uni­versity poll finds Hillary Clin­ton lead­ing Donald Trump by seven percentage points, 47%-40%. Trump’s “lead among men and white voters all but” van­ished from the uni­versity’s early Oc­to­ber poll. A new PPRI/Brook­ings sur­vey shows a much bigger lead, with Clinton up 51%-36%. And an IBD/TIPP poll leans the other way, showing a vir­tu­al dead heat, with Trump tak­ing 41% of the vote to Clin­ton’s 40% in a four-way match­up.

Trump: I’ll Accept the Results “If I Win”
2 days ago

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.