President Obama is not taking part in a White House mobile pilot program. (Getty Images)
News of a White House pilot program exploring non-Blackberry mobile devices created significant buzz in recent days, but officials say that it does not mean that the president is next in line for a new Android or iPhone.
The Wall Street Journal first reported that the White House Communications Agency is undergoing a mobile pilot testing the use of Samsung smart phones, and in the wake of the story White House officials have denied that President Barack Obama is part of the pilot program, according to published reports.
The White House Communications Agency, which oversees the president’s daily and emergency communications, is part of the Defense Department, where dozens of mobile pilot programs have been under way to test the use of smart phones throughout the military.
“We continue to work toward a secure mobile communications environment that is device-agnostic and inclusive of a variety of mobile products,” a DoD spokesman said on March 21. “We can confirm that the White House Communications Agency is consistent with what the rest of DoD is piloting and using a variety of mobile devices.”
The spokesman could not confirm that Samsung devices are being used in the White House pilot program, as has been reported.
For years, defense officials have discussed the growing demand for smart phones, whether it’s from the highest echelons of the Pentagon or troops deployed on the ground. While many defense organizations struggle to find a way to employ bring-your-own-device policies while still maintaining military-grade security, more components are working to field the iPhones and Androids that service members are most familiar with and use in their daily lives.
In the Marines, “we don’t call it BYOD anymore, we call it the ‘trusted handheld,’ because it starts at the tactical edge and leads out to the garrison and to the enterprise network,” said Brig. Gen. Kevin Nally, Marine Corps CIO and director of command, control, communications and computers. “We did get NSA’s approval to finally test this…basically you have an organizational piece of the phone and a personal piece of the phone. So we’re working out the details with legal right now, doing the business case analysis with what [the Defense Information Systems Agency] has…we’ve worked with all the major telecom [companies] to help develop this device as well.”
While the Defense Information Systems Agency manages most of the military’s use of mobile devices, the White House Communications Agency’s mobile use is separate from what DISA is doing with DOD. This largely is because of the White House’s unique communications requirements and missions, which differ from the military’s, according to a defense official speaking on background.