Spooks and soldiers will get iPhones and Android kit after the top brass promised to open up its top-secret communication networks to handsets beyond BlackBerrys.
A new US Department of Defense implementation plan - which covers the Army, Navy, Air Force, CIA and tech research group DARPA - will allow employees of all levels to use the latest and best commercial mobiles, including those from Apple and Samsung. "Classified voice and data communications up to classification level of top secret will be supported", according to the blueprint.
The document [PDF], issued today by DoD chief information officer Teri Takai, reveals that the US government will buy 600,000 mobile devices from a range of suppliers. The department currently uses 450,000 BlackBerry handsets. The war on America's enemies will be partly won on the mobile internet, said Takai:
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.
Putting US soldiers in the cloud will give them an edge, added the report:
The development of portable, cloud-enabled command-and-control capability will dramatically increase the number of people able to collaborate and share information rapidly.
In a pilot study, DARPA will use "secure iPads" to access top-secret networks.
The department mulled the possibility of opening a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) scheme to employees, but decided officially against it on the basis of the "security gap" in worker-bought devices. However, two developments could put it back on the table: hyper-secure virtual desktop software, and hardened devices built on secure crypto-processors (aka TPM chips) that separate the personal and professional uses of a phone.
DoD chiefs are also considering bolting future tech developments onto current commercial mobes - such as biometric checks and encrypted voice traffic. ®