UPDATED. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency announced it plans to buy iPhone services for more than 17,600 employees.
According to an Oct. 17 solicitation notice posted on FedBizOpps, a government procurement site, the immigration and customs division of the Department of Homeland Security is planning to buy Apple iPhone devices that are bundled into monthly plans for cellular phone service, Internet access for domestic and international coverage, and text messaging capabilities.
The procurement represents a major commitment by a federal agency to acquire Apple mobile devices for its employees, and more fundamentally, to Apple’s iOS services platform. According to the notice, “ICE…intends on procuring the iOS-based devices/iPhone services for 17,676 users.”
The acquisition reflects a broader shift in federal technology spending towards to support a mobile workforce. But it also represents a notable defection from Research In Motion’s BlackBerry platform, which has been a mainstay product in government because of its robust enterprise-level security features, notes Joseph Marks, who first reported the news for NextGov.
“This order appears to be written as a justification for a like-for-like replacement of BlackBerry devices,” observed one industry supplier, familiar with mobile products in the government market, who spoke on condition that he not be identified.
At the same time, the procurement requirements reflect what most users already get with iPhone and iOS services and iPhones, he said. Importantly, the procurement doesn’t include a variety of mobile applications and other support systems, such as mobile device management tools, that are likely to be needed by ICE administrators.
The order is, however, one of the largest, if not the largest order for iPhones the supplier has seen yet from a government agency.
RIM’s Vice President, Government Solutions, Paul Lucier, asked to comment about the news said BlackBerrys are still being used by “security-conscious” organizations around the globe “and over 90 per cent of Fortune 500 companies. We have one million government customers in North America alone who depend on BlackBerry. More than 400,000 government customers worldwide upgraded their devices in the past year,” he said.
The requirements list in the procurement notice provides a deeper look into the “salient characteristics and critical functions required by ICE for mobile technology services.” ICE’s checklist includes:
- Commercial Viability Services must be derived from a commercial product that has significant market share to ensure product enhancement, support, and interest by third-party vendors to spur innovation and utility.
- Operating System modification detection ensures uniform deployment and identifies security threats.
- Product uniformity and predictability ensures supportability, training, and security management
- Voice and data communication support basic need for a mobile communications device.
- Digital certificate and Identities management Ensure unique identity of device and end user for secure operations.
- Email and Directory service support basic need for mobile computing.
- Microsoft Exchange integration with ActiveSync Ensures proper integration with ICE’s enterprise messaging infrastructure.
- Virtual Private Network support basic need for secure communications with mission applications.
- Remote management capabilities Supports field users and ensures consistent operational posture of the device.
- Device use and operating characteristics managed using centralized policy management and manual configuration Essential for secure and consistent operations. Enforces agency standards for service use.
- Secure backup of device data and configuration support Basic need to support reliability, repair, and end user support
- Managed application distribution basic need for consistent delivery of services and security.
- Application development tools needed to develop custom mission support applications. Promotes commercial viability of services and devices.
- Signed application enforcement ensures applications on device are from legitimate source and/or meet agency policy controls.
- Training and Standards of Conduct – In coordination with the ICE Office of Training and Development (OTD) and the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), establish and provide training on the use of mobile computing devices that are enforced using the operating system policy that can be remotely managed and monitored.
- Promote the use and standardization of commercially established mobile and web-based applications for mobile computing.
- Identify scanning capabilities for the mobile computing environment needed to support the ICE missions (either built-in, or as an accessory add-on for ICE law enforcement (LE) and non-LE use). Examples include: biometrics fingerprint and retina scanning for immediate identification of an individual; biometrics for facial recognition identification of an individual; scanning of data card magnetic strips and embedded chips for LE purposes (e.g., state drivers licenses, ID cards, passports, debit cards); barcode scanning for property/inventory management
- Product consistency and uniformity simplify management and training. Products used by enterprises must balance the pace of innovation with the ability of the organization to adapt to those changes. ICE’s paramount need for security and maintainability presents unique challenges that many consumer-oriented products ignore due to the complexity of implementation and low returns on investment.
This story was updated at 5:15 p.m. to include comments from RIM’s Vice President, Government Solutions, Paul Lucier.