The FBI's operational technology division recently decided it wanted 600 Apple iPads to fulfill the unit's job of arming special agents with cutting-edge technology for foiling terrorists and criminals.
Many gadgets the division develops and deploys exceed anything available on the shelves of Best Buy: Think night vision goggles and hidden cameras. But after it moved to officially solicit bids from vendors on iPads for investigators out in the field, agency leaders changed their minds.
"Given the fiscal constraints of all government agencies, the FBI must prioritize its limited resources on the most critical mission requirements," FBI Special Agent Ann Todd said in explaining why the agency on Aug. 31 yanked a solicitation for the iPads.
The initial request for offers, posted in May, specified a need for black-colored, 16-gigabyte iPad 2s with Verizon 3G and WiFi access. The notice also required bidders to include 600 gray Apple-brand Smart Covers -- screen protectors that magnetically start up or shut down the device when moved. At retail price, 600 of the $39 covers and $629 tablets would have set the government back $400,800.
The bureau has in the past been willing to pay a premium for Apple's innovations.
In March, the FBI announced it would pay $25,575.92 for two high-end Apple MAC Pro desktops, with adapters for connecting the computers to large display screens; software for running Windows applications; and multi-year protection plans.
It remains to be seen whether FBI officials will retry the iPad purchase next year.
"As we move into fiscal 2012, [the division] will continue to evaluate technology options needed to support the FBI's investigative priorities as well as the technical needs of our domestic and foreign partners," Todd said.