Pentagon Bans Personal Devices from Classified Areas

Ivan Cholakov/

That includes phones, smartwatches and other devices that can transmit, store and receive data.

The Defense Department on Tuesday issued a sweeping electronics policy banning personal and government-issued mobile devices from secure spaces within the Pentagon.

The new rules bar all military personnel, government employees, contractors and visitors from bringing internet-connected devices into areas of the Pentagon where classified information is processed, handled or discussed, according to a memo first reported by The Associated Press.

The ban applies to cellphones, laptops, tablets, smartwatches and any other device that can transmit, store or record data and run on “a self-contained power source.”

Before entering secure spaces, people will be required to shut off mobile devices and leave them in storage containers outside the area, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan wrote in the memo. The rules don’t apply to electronics with minimal storage and transmission capabilities, like key fobs or fitness trackers without cameras and microphones that don’t connect to the internet.

The undersecretary of Defense for intelligence and Defense chief information officer can grant exceptions for certain government-issued devices, but personal electronics are universally banned. Exceptions for cellular-enabled medical devices may be given on a case-by-case basis.

The Pentagon began reconsidering its mobile device policy after the fitness-tracking app Strava compiled user location data in a global heat map and inadvertently revealed the locations of multiple overseas military bases. The data dump also publicized the identities and locations of international aid workers, intelligence operatives and military personnel, raising security concerns among government officials.

The new rules are less extreme than the facilitywide cellphone ban Defense Secretary James Mattis reportedly considered after the Strava incident.

Agency officials have 180 days to fully implement the policy.