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Coast Guard Approves iPhone, Android Use

The military arm is the first to formally okay smartphones and says it will distribute devices rather than let personnel use their own.

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The Coast Guard has officially approved the use of iPhones and Android-based smartphones for its personnel, the first U.S. military arm to do so.

A Coast Guard spokesperson Lisa Novak confirmed the approval of a policy to outfit personnel with smartphones, a move first revealed in a published report.

The Coast Guard will not allow people to bring in their own devices to be configured with internal email systems, as some federal adoptees of smartphones have done, but instead will procure the devices for them.

"The policy is clear that personally-owned devices shall not be provisioned to be used with Coast Guard wireless email," Novak said, but did not provide further details.

The use of smartphones is rapidly spreading throughout the federal government, with numerous agencies and departments--from the Department of the Interior to the Department of Veterans Affairs to Congress--approving them for use by employees.

While the Coast Guard is the first arm of the U.S. military to implement an official policy for their use, the Department of Defense already has been experimenting with the use of iPhones and Android-based and other smartphones through several pilot programs--including the Army's Connecting Soldiers to Digital Applications and Relevant ISR to the Edge.

So far agencies are mixed on whether to procure the devices themselves for users or to allow them to purchase their own and then securely configure them to access internal applications such as email and collaboration. Former U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra floated the idea that rather than make broad deployments of the devices, it might be better for agencies to do the latter.

The House of Representatives, for example, allows members of Congress to use their own iPads and iPhones on the chamber floor, and recently struck partnerships with Skype and ooVoo to allow secure videoconferencing over the House WiFi network.

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