The Pentagon is expanding its smartphone for spies program

While the rest of the DC press corps is talking about Chuck Hagel’s qualifications to be the next defense secretary, Killer Apps is lucky enough to be writing about smart phones. Secret smart phones, that is. That’s right, the National Security Agency and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) are set to expand the program ...

615520_nex7_12.jpg
615520_nex7_12.jpg

While the rest of the DC press corps is talking about Chuck Hagel's qualifications to be the next defense secretary, Killer Apps is lucky enough to be writing about smart phones. Secret smart phones, that is. That's right, the National Security Agency and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) are set to expand the program that gives government officials Android-based smart phones and tablets capable of handling classified information.

"The Fishbowl pilot is continuing. There is a small number of devices that have been issued primarily to organizations like the White House Communications Agency so they can evaluate them as potential devices for national leaders," David Mihelcic, DISA's chief technology officer, told Killer Apps after a speech in Arlington, Va. "But really Fishbowl is going to cease to exist, and it will be subsumed by [a program called] Commercial for Classified Solutions."

DISA is working to improve on technology developed for the Fishbowl project -- which Killer Apps reported on in September -- meant to provide everyone from senior government officials to spies with commercially based smart phones and tablets capable of handling supersensitive information.

While the rest of the DC press corps is talking about Chuck Hagel’s qualifications to be the next defense secretary, Killer Apps is lucky enough to be writing about smart phones. Secret smart phones, that is. That’s right, the National Security Agency and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) are set to expand the program that gives government officials Android-based smart phones and tablets capable of handling classified information.

"The Fishbowl pilot is continuing. There is a small number of devices that have been issued primarily to organizations like the White House Communications Agency so they can evaluate them as potential devices for national leaders," David Mihelcic, DISA’s chief technology officer, told Killer Apps after a speech in Arlington, Va. "But really Fishbowl is going to cease to exist, and it will be subsumed by [a program called] Commercial for Classified Solutions."

DISA is working to improve on technology developed for the Fishbowl project — which Killer Apps reported on in September — meant to provide everyone from senior government officials to spies with commercially based smart phones and tablets capable of handling supersensitive information.

"Initially, you’re going to see Android-based [devices] because it is essentially extending the Fishbowl" effort, said Mihelcic. "But the goal moving forward is to be vendor-agnostic and operating system-agnostic, but the vendors and the OS’s have to meet NSA’s security requirements."

Once DISA finds vendors that can meet the NSA’s requirements for handling classified info, DISA will push the devices to a trial group of 50 to 100 DOD personnel in the third quarter of fiscal year 2013 with the ultimate goal of replacing the roughly 5,000 very expensive DOD cell phones that are specially designed to handle secrets.

"We say nominally that we need to be able to support that number, but if this scales, you could see the number going into the hundreds of thousands," said Mihelcic.

Moving to these commercially based devices will allow DOD to field them faster and give users improved ability to use a number of apps "with a rich user experience" for handling classified information, according to Mihelcic.

John Reed is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He comes to FP after editing Military.com’s publication Defense Tech and working as the associate editor of DoDBuzz. Between 2007 and 2010, he covered major trends in military aviation and the defense industry around the world for Defense News and Inside the Air Force. Before moving to Washington in August 2007, Reed worked in corporate sales and business development for a Swedish IT firm, The Meltwater Group in Mountain View CA, and Philadelphia, PA. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter at the Tracy Press and the Scotts Valley Press-Banner newspapers in California. His first story as a professional reporter involved chasing escaped emus around California’s central valley with Mexican cowboys armed with lassos and local police armed with shotguns. Luckily for the giant birds, the cowboys caught them first and the emus were ok. A New England native, Reed graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a dual degree in international affairs and history.

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