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BlackBerrys Will Make Up 98% of Mobile Devices on New Defensewide System

A man tests out a Blackberry smartphone in early 2013.

A man tests out a Blackberry smartphone in early 2013. // Mark Lennihan/AP

A Pentagon system intended to secure a mix of brand name smartphones for warfighters will primarily support BlackBerrys when the tool starts launching later this month, according to Defense Department officials.

About 80,000 BlackBerrys and 1,800 Defense-owned Apple and Android-based phones and tablets will begin being hooked up to the new management system on Jan. 31, officials announced on Friday.

A transition from tethered workstation computers to mobile information access that began in 2012 is contingent on this system functioning. The $16 million project aims to ensure users -- potentially 300,000 of them – don’t compromise military data on their phones or corrupt defense networks when on-the-go.

Popular devices expected to go online include the iPad 3 and 4, iPhone 4S and 5, Samsung 10.1 tablets and Samsung 3S, and Motorola RAZR devices.

"The new year will bring new mobile capabilities to as many as 100,000 DoD users," Pentagon officials said in a statement. "DoD will begin deploying version 1.0 of the unclassified mobility capability Jan. 31 and will build out capacity to support up to 100,000 users by the end of the fiscal year."

At the end of the month, users of the mobile device management system will have access to an app store, support for Defense encryption keys, and several departmentwide services, including enterprise email and Defense Connect Online. 

Around May, the Pentagon will add a business software package so that users can edit Word documents and other Microsoft Office files.

There currently are 16 apps available, and 90 programs under evaluation. 

DISA did not test the system before awarding a contract for installation to DMI last year, according to Defense officials. Questions have been raised about the ability to deploy one part that protects email and Web browsing under an aggressive timeline without short-changing security. 

Last year, some military members working off Apple and Android electronics had to revert to older model BlackBerrys because of the system changeover. At the time, Pentagon spokesman Damien Pickart said in an email. "We are delaying provisioning of those devices until the [mobile device management] environment is ready in Jan 2014. We will provision new devices as rapidly as possible starting in January 2014."

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