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Army Partners With Google, Apple On Secure Tablets

The military arm and its technology partners are testing an "iPad-like" device now, to shore up security before deployment.

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The Army is partnering with Apple, Google, and other mobile technology companies to shore up security requirements for a tablet device that will allow for common access for personnel across the enterprise, the Army's CIO said Wednesday.

"We're testing one device--an iPad-like device--that you embed your CAC (Common Access Card) in, log onto the network and sign," said Lt. General Susan Lawrence, speaking at the LandWarNet 2011 conference. "As long as the industry can bring those [secure] devices to the table, those are the devices we're going to seek out." Lawrence and other military technology leaders held a conference call from the meeting Wednesday with reporters.

Lawrence said the device the Army is testing already works and, as soon it's properly secured, "we're going to put it on our shelves quickly for our units to deploy."

Security indeed is a chief concern as the Army works on its deployment of mobile solutions across its networks, concurred Lt. Gen. Rhett A. Hernandez, commanding general of the U.S. Army Cyber Command, which centralizes command of military cyberspace operations and synchronizes the defense of U.S. military networks.

Hernandez said before he knew the intricacies of securing mobile devices, he was an unabashed enthusiast about approving them for use as quickly as possible.

"From an operational standpoint, I can't wait to get them out there," he said. However, "from a vulnerability standpoint, let's make sure we bring them on and make sure we maintain a trusted and secure environment."

Hernandez said the Cyber Command has a team in place evaluating the security of mobile devices and identifying "what vulnerabilities might these bring so we can get them trusted and secured."

The Department of Defense (DOD) has not yet broadly approved the use of smartphones and tablets for its personnel, but some military branches are already using the devices.

The Coast Guard became the first branch to formally approve the use of iPhones and Android-based smartphones for its personnel earlier this month, and the Department of the Navy said last week it is close to approving iPhones, iPads, Android-based devices, and the BlackBerry Playbook for use on Navy and Marine Corps unclassified networks.

The Army, too, has been testing mobile devices for more than just network access. Through a series of pilot programs, it's been testing equipping soldiers in the classroom and the field with mobile applications via smartphones, as well as building out a mobile battlefield network based on Google's Android OS. Officials, however, did not provide updates on these programs on the conference call.

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