Mobile

Marines could see secure handhelds by 2019

Photo credit: USMC

The U.S. Marine Corp. Systems Command has rolled out a new program to get rugged, secure handheld smart communications devices into squad leaders' hands by 2019.

The Marine Air-Ground Task Force' Common Handheld program will identify commercial handheld devices suitable for Marine infantry in the field. The idea is to keep Marines connected even they're on foot and not within reach of secure mobile communications systems.

Under the program, software on the commercial devices would be customized to meet security standards. The devices would also have tactical applications pre-installed, eliminating the need for multiple devices that enable various capabilities.

The devices will take advantage of military and commercial security, according to program lead Maj. Kevin Shepherd.

"These devices will all have multiple layers of encryption, both on the phone and in transmission," he said. "If obtained by the wrong person, our devices should withstand any hacks long after the tactical information loses value."

The Marine Corps System Command said it began the program in response to "Marine feedback."

The armed forces, including the Marine Corps, have been looking for ways to expand their capabilities using commercial items.

Last May, Maj. Scott Cuomo, MAGTF planner and ground combat element integration officer in the Marine Corps, said the armed forces had to "leverage commercial," and that he was skeptical of rigid, old military rules against using apps and handheld devices in the field.

In his remarks at AFCEA Washington's Internet of Things Summit on May 17, he said that the Marines tried to develop a portable support system that was ruggedized for harsh environments, but it proved to be too bulky to move easily.

He said the military limitation on the use of cell phones in the field because they can be used to track troops is outdated. He said that restriction seemed antiquated, as his adversaries' cell phones have geospatial apps and location capabilities they can access while being shot at.

A USMC spokesman told FCW via email that "the change [that pushed the program forward] was on two fronts:  First the NSA instituted the Commercial Solution for Classified (CSfC)  program.  This gave a path to COTS devices that had resident on them sufficient security measures for Secret level approval.  Second, industry began to work directly toward producing commercial devices that were in line with the CSfC program as released for public use, meaning that we could now use the COTS devices without expensive development of one-off military devices. "

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


Featured

  • Contracting
    8 prototypes of the border walls as tweeted by CBP San Diego

    DHS contractors face protests – on the streets

    Tech companies are facing protests internally from workers and externally from activists about doing for government amid controversial policies like "zero tolerance" for illegal immigration.

  • Workforce
    By Mark Van Scyoc Royalty-free stock photo ID: 285175268

    At OPM, Weichert pushes direct hire, pay agent changes

    Margaret Weichert, now acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, is clearing agencies to make direct hires in IT, cyber and other tech fields and is changing pay for specialized occupations.

  • Cloud
    Shutterstock ID ID: 222190471 By wk1003mike

    IBM protests JEDI cloud deal

    As the deadline to submit bids on the Pentagon's $10 billion, 10-year warfighter cloud deal draws near, IBM announced a legal protest.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.