By David Alexander
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon is expected to clear Apple, Samsung and BlackBerry mobile devices for use on Defense Department networks in the next few weeks, part of an effort to ensure the military has access to the latest communications technology, a spokesman said on Wednesday.
The decision will set the stage for an intensified struggle for Pentagon customers among BlackBerry devices, Apple's iPhones or iPads and units using Google's Android platform such as Samsung Electronics' phones. The Pentagon currently has some 600,000 users of smart phones, computer tablets and other mobile devices.
The Pentagon unveiled a plan in February aimed at giving the military services a much broader range of choices among mobile devices. The department currently has 470,000 BlackBerry users, 41,000 Apple users and 8,700 people with Android devices. Most Apple and Android systems are in pilot or test programs.
"We are working towards establishing a multi-vendor environment that supports a variety of devices and operating systems, to include Samsung, Apple and BlackBerry," said Lieutenant Colonel Damien Pickart, a Pentagon spokesman.
"A key objective of the plan is to establish a department-wide mobile enterprise solution that permits the use of the latest commercial technology such, as smart phones and tablets," he added.
Several mobile devices and operating systems are currently going through a security review and approval process with the Defense Information Systems Agency, Pickart said.
Once the devices have cleared the process for creating a STIG - for Security Technical Implementation Guide - Pentagon organizations will be able to order them knowing that they have the necessary security configuration to be used on the Defense Department's internal networks, he said.
Pickart said Samsung's Knox version of Android currently is going through the security review process, with a decision expected in the next two weeks.
A full security review for Apple's iOS 6 system is expected in early May, and BlackBerry has submitted security plans for its BlackBerry 10, BlackBerry PlayBook and BlackBerry Device Service, with a decision expected in two weeks.
The security reviews are part of the Commercial Mobile Device Implementation Plan unveiled by the Pentagon in February.
Major General Robert Wheeler, deputy chief information officer, told reporters at the time that the effort aimed to ensure the Pentagon's mobile devices, wireless infrastructure and mobile applications remain "reliable, secure and flexible enough to keep up with the fast-changing technologies of today."
(Reporting By David Alexander; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)