Transportation, National Archives and Tennessee Valley Authority embrace iPads

VA supports its own iPad rollout with an access gateway that turns the tablet computers into virtual desktops.

The Transportation Department, the National Archives and Record Administration, and the Tennessee Valley Authority appear poised to embrace Apple iPad tablet computers, according to internal documents posted by Government Attic.

The Veterans Affairs Department this month opened its network to 1,000 iPad and iPhone users, supporting the portable Apple devices with a Citrix Access Gateway, according to records also obtained by Government Attic, a website that publishes documents it acquires through Freedom of Information Act requests.

The access gateway allows iPads to function as "virtual desktops," running standard Microsoft Windows applications that Veterans Affairs uses, an Aug. 12 internal memo from VA Chief Information Officer Roger Baker disclosed.

A series of internal emails sent in August and September from the information technology staff at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed that Transportation has settled on the iPad and not the BlackBerry PlayBook as its standard tablet computer.

An Aug. 2 NHTSA email said that the PlayBook needs to be paired with a smartphone to access email and address books, while there is no need for two pieces of equipment with the iPad. That email also observed "there are limited amounts of apps for the PlayBook."

Another NHTSA email the same day said the Federal Aviation Administration started tests with 800 iPads and top Transportation management was developing security policies for iPads. Neither Transportation nor FAA responded to queries on their iPad plans by Nextgov's deadline.

The National Archives and Record Administration's social media group kicked off a test of 31 iPads last October; based on the positive results of that test, the group recommended all 3,000-plus Archives employees be equipped with iPads, according to internal emails and documents posted by Government Attic.

Archives employees who participated in that test reported iPads made it easy to call up complex policy documents during meetings, enabled scanning of original records that then could be emailed while working in storage areas, enhanced telework and made it easier to display records to the public at events such as genealogy fairs.

The Tennessee Valley Authority in the summer of 2010 started testing iPads, BlackBerry PlayBooks and smartphones running the Android operating system, and internal documents revealed that some unidentified organizations within TVA already have started to develop iPad applications.

Security still remains a key concern for federal agencies since the iPad and iPhone operating system has not yet been certified by the National Institutes of Standards and Technology for wireless communications under the Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2 , the Government Attic documents show.

The BlackBerry PlayBook received NIST FIPS 140-2 certification in July, and one member of the NHTSA IT staff wondered why Transportation had opted to use iPads "instead of something that made the cut for FIPS compliancy."

Baker, in his Aug. 12 memo, said VA eventually wants to beef up iPad security with federal computer chip-based identity and computer access cards. Based on documents posted by Government Attic, wireless security for early deployment of iPads by VA is based on strong Mobile Device Management software from Apple that Baker said he planned.

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