Army awards secure phones BPA

Defense Department officials will be able to exchange sensitive and classified information securely over a commercial network thanks to specially equipped wireless phones included in a blanket purchase agreement the Army awarded to T-Mobile USA Inc.

The one-year BPA, which was awarded Sept. 19 and includes the entire DOD, is renewable indefinitely. It will facilitate the fielding of 10,000 units for the Army during a five-year period, said Kim Jackson, director of the telecommunications directorate at the Army's new Network Enterprise Technology Command, or Netcom.

"Since wireless capabilities have been available, there has been a widespread need for high assurance, secure wireless telecommunications services within the Army and DOD," Jackson said. "A GSM service to communicate mission-critical information is a natural progression in providing secure communication of critical information."

GSM, which stands for Global System for Mobile Communications, is an open, nonproprietary system with international roaming capability used in more than 170 countries. GSM satellite roaming offers extended access to areas where land coverage is not available.

Jackson said that General Dynamics Decision Systems' Sectera Secure Wireless Phone for GSM would be used to provide Army and other government users the ability to communicate securely over commercial GSM wireless networks worldwide.

The National Security Agency has certified the phones' ability to protect classified communications up to the top-secret level, using the Type 1 encryption algorithm available to authorized personnel, according to General Dynamics officials.

Mark Fried, General Dynamics Decision Systems president and general manager, said the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company had received numerous inquiries from customers in advance of the product's introduction "because of the widespread need for high assurance secure wireless telecommunications products."

The Sectera phone for GSM also interoperates with the General Dynamics Sectera Wireline Terminal, a compact, lightweight device that connects to a standard analog telephone or a personal computer to provide secure voice and data communications. Bellevue, Wash.-based T-Mobile (formerly VoiceStream), is the only wireless provider in the continental U.S. operating a nationwide network-based GSM communications technology platform, Jackson said.

"This network is unsecured," she said. "The security for the transmission is provided by the security device within the GSM phones."

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