The U.S. Defense Department announced that it would be opening its communications networks to phones and tablets from Apple, along with devices using the Google’s Android operating system. Earlier this month, CACI International reported that it was modifying iPads for use in government agencies, which are presumably the tablets that will be allowed on the newly opened networks.
Currently, employees at the Pentagon use BlackBerry devices. There are approximately 450,000 BlackBerry phones in use, so a switch to Android and iOS could significantly hurt BlackBerry’s dominance in government agencies. While employees do currently use 41,000 Apple products and 8,700 Android devices, the products aren’t connected to Defense Department networks, except when used for testing.
According to the report, the Pentagon wants its employees to be able to use commercial products on its networks, including its classified network, for the first time. There are plans in place to create a military mobile applications store, which would be a source for secure apps. The Pentagon intends to hire a contractor to build the foundations for a system that might handle up to eight million devices at once.
“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 cybersecurity play a critical role in mission success,” said Teri Takai, the department’s chief information officer.
At this point in time, the Department of Defense uses two different communications networks to exchange data and documents – one for unclassified information and another for sending classified material. The majority of the company’s mobile devices (mostly BlackBerrys) do not work with the classified network.
With the iPads and the Android devices, the department is hoping to change that policy, though it does not have plans to commit to a single manufacturer, with Air Force Major General Robert Wheeler calling the Pentagon “device-agnostic.”
The move to introduce iPads to the Pentagon comes a year after the Air Force began employing the tablets, with a contract to buy as many as 18,000 Apple iPads to replace the bulky manuals and charts carried by pilots. The Department of Defense is expected to open up the network in early 2014.