WASHINGTON, Nov. 7, 2012 – Service members could be downloading applications for government BlackBerrys, iPhones, Androids and other “mobility devices” by the beginning of next year, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert E. Wheeler, the deputy chief information officer for the department.
The goal, he said, is to have the “military app store” set up by early 2013. “It all depends on if we get a good bid,” Wheeler explained in an interview. The request for procurement closes out at the end of the year, and “it should not take long” to put the store in play once the decision is made, he added.
Wheeler said the needs of the department are at the core of the request.
“We’re looking at things from a ‘three-bin’ perspective,” he added.
The first bin, he said, contains mobility devices that don’t need to connect with a DOD official or classified network. These include devices used for training, communications in an unclassified nonsecure realm, research and so on, he said.
He said the second bin holds those devices that are connected to the secure but unclassified network. Today, these are mainly BlackBerrys, Wheeler said, but there are pilot programs incorporating Androids, iPhones and tablets in this bin.
The third group connects with the classified network, he said.
The department’s future “app store” will feature applications appropriate for each bin, the general said, and he expects the security performance of these items will change to encompass DOD’s strict needs. DOD personnel use 271,000 BlackBerrys alone, he noted, and Research In Motion -- the Canadian company that developed BlackBerrys -- has a security protocol the department approves.
“We hope other companies develop this,” Wheeler said.
Overall, he said, the larger issue is “as we move forward with technology, we’re trying to make sure we are making it less costly to DOD, we’re trying to make it more secure and we’re trying to jump the productivity curve here.”
Jumping the curve is key for the department and to do that, Wheeler said, the department needs to get these devices into the hands of the young men and women to whom they are second nature. The so-called digital generation is developing new uses for these devices every day, the general noted, and this has bridged into the tactical world, as well. These devices have uses “far beyond just talking to each other and e-mail,” he said.
The department is “basically going for diversity in our products, and that goes back to trying to get the best price for the government and finding the most secure device,” he said. “So we will have a family of options that don’t favor any one device.”