Pentagon Prepares for End of BlackBerry Era

A Blackberry cell phone is seen at Fixx wireless on November 4, 2013 in Miami, Florida.
National Journal
Aliya Sternstein, NextGov
Aliya Sternstein, NextGov
Nov. 12, 2013, 4:28 a.m.

The De­fense De­part­ment, own­er of 470,000 Black­Berrys, is dis­tan­cing it­self from the strug­gling vendor while mov­ing ahead with con­struc­tion of a de­part­mentwide app store and a sys­tem for se­cur­ing all mo­bile devices, in­clud­ing the latest iPhones, iPads, and Sam­sung smart­phones and tab­lets.

Just two months ago, when Black­Berry an­nounced the com­pany would rad­ic­ally cur­tail com­mer­cial sales, Pentagon of­fi­cials said their busi­ness part­ner­ship re­mained un­af­fected. At the time, De­fense’s tech­no­logy sup­port agency was ready­ing net­works with soft­ware to handle tens of thou­sands of Black­Berry Z10 and Q10 smart­phones.

Last week, Black­Berry called off a tent­at­ive buy­out and fired Chief Ex­ec­ut­ive Of­ficer Thor­sten Heins, height­en­ing un­cer­tainty about the fu­ture of the com­pany, which has seen its mar­ket share plum­met in re­cent years as con­sumers em­braced more user-friendly devices that run on op­er­at­ing sys­tems built by Apple and Google.

For now, De­fense’s mo­bile se­cur­ity strategy primar­ily de­pends on Black­Berry. The Pentagon has gran­ted only Black­Berry 10 phones and Play­book tab­lets an “au­thor­ity to op­er­ate,” or ATO — not An­droid, Apple or any oth­er device lines. Con­sumer smart­phones and tab­lets must have an ATO to hook up to De­fense net­works.

But there is a con­tin­gency plan at the Pentagon, should Black­Berry phones go the way of Betamax VCRs.

A 2012 strategy to trans­ition per­son­nel from PCs to smart­phones and tab­lets did not fa­vor any one device maker, De­fense of­fi­cials noted on Thursday. “This multi-vendor, device-ag­nost­ic ap­proach min­im­izes the im­pact of [a] single vendor to our cur­rent op­er­a­tions,” Pentagon spokes­man Lt. Col. Dami­en Pick­art said.

Im­ple­ment­a­tion of the strategy cen­ters on a “mo­bile device man­age­ment” sys­tem to track hand­helds that touch mil­it­ary net­works so that they do not com­prom­ise mil­it­ary in­form­a­tion or cor­rupt De­fense sys­tems.

“DoD’s mo­bil­ity strategy and com­mer­cial mo­bile device im­ple­ment­a­tion plan in­cludes re­li­ance on mul­tiple vendors to sup­port its mo­bile com­mu­nic­a­tions needs,” Pick­art said.

The mo­bile se­cur­ity man­age­ment sys­tem is in the early stages of de­vel­op­ment. It will un­der­go a lim­ited pi­lot, or reach “ini­tial op­er­at­ing ca­pa­city,” by Dec. 31, Pick­art said.

The Pentagon an­ti­cip­ates con­nect­ing 300,000 ap­proved gov­ern­ment-is­sued con­sumer devices by 2016.

More from Nex­t­Gov, our sis­ter site:

White House’s $14 Bil­lion Cy­ber Spend­ing Claim Is Squishy

How In­teri­or Trumps NASA in Twit­ter En­gage­ment

CMS Man­ager Who Ap­proved Health­Care.gov Launch Nev­er Re­ceived Key Se­cur­ity Memos

What We're Following See More »
WHITE HOUSE URGING QUICK SENATE ACTION
John King Gets Nod for Education Secretary
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

President Obama has said he’ll nominate John King to fill out the last few months of Obama’s presidency as Secretary of Education. King has been in an acting secretary role since Arne Duncan stepped down in December. The White House is pressuring the Senate to act quickly on the nomination.

Source:
162,000 SIGNATURES SO FAR
Sanders Supporters Begin to Petition Superdelegates
3 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Bernie Sanders supporters aren’t taking this whole superdelegate thing lying down. Despite a tie a blowout win against Hillary Clinton, Sanders trails her by some 350 delegates in the overall count, thanks mostly to superdelegates pledging to support her. His backers have taken to creating a MoveOn.org petition to pressure the superdelegates to be flexible. It reads: “Commit to honoring the voters—let everyone know that you won’t allow your vote to defeat our votes. Announce that in the event of a close race, you’ll align yourself with regular voters—not party elites.” So far it’s attracted 162,000 signatures. Related: At FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver notes that in 2008, Clinton had a 154-50 superdelegate advantage over President Obama when New Hampshire voted. But “by the time Clinton ended her campaign on June 7, 2008, Obama had nearly a 2-to-1 superdelegate advantage over her,” owing in part to many pledged delegates who switched their support to Obama.

Source:
REGULAR ORDER
Ryan Pitching the Importance of Passing a Budget Today
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

House Speaker Paul Ryan today is trying to convince his large but divided conference that they need to pass a budget under regular order. “Conservatives are revolting against higher top-line spending levels negotiated last fall by President Obama and Ryan’s predecessor, then-Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). GOP centrists are digging in on the other side, pledging to kill any budget that deviates from the two-year, bipartisan budget deal.” Ryan’s three options are to lower the budget numbers to appease the Freedom Caucus, “deem” a budget and move on to the appropriations process, or “preserve Obama-Boehner levels, but seek savings elsewhere.”

Source:
HEADED TO PRESIDENT’S DESK
Trade Bill Would Ban Imports Made with Slave Labor
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

“A bill headed for President Barack Obama this week includes a provision that would ban U.S. imports of fish caught by slaves in Southeast Asia, gold mined by children in Africa and garments sewn by abused women in Bangladesh, closing a loophole in an 85-year-old tariff law.” The Senate approved the bill, which would also ban Internet taxes and overhaul trade laws, by a vote of 75-20. It now goes to President Obama.

Source:
TRUMP UP TO 44%
Sanders Closes to Within Seven Nationally in New Poll
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

Bernie Sanders has closed to within seven points of Hillary Clinton in a new Morning Consult survey. Clinton leads 46%-39%. Consistent with the New Hampshire voting results, Clinton does best with retirees, while Sanders leads by 20 percentage points among those under 30. On the Republican side, Donald Trump is far ahead with 44% support. Trailing by a huge margin are Ted Cruz (17%), Ben Carson (10%) and Marco Rubio (10%).

Source:
×