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Air Force Unit Cancels iPad Procurement

Special Operations Command had planned to acquire nearly 3,000 iPads to transfer paper-based flight information and technical manuals to an electronic format.

Elizabeth Montalbano

February 22, 2012

3 Min Read

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The Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) has shelved plans to procure nearly 3,000 iPads to help it do away with paper-based flight information and technical manuals.

The command disclosed the cancellation in a notice on FedBizOpps.gov.

AFSOC spokesperson Capt. Kristen Duncan said the unit cancelled the procurement because its acquisition strategy for it was not consistent with the way the Air Force generally acquires IT products and services. The command continues to evaluate the use of tablet devices for its personnel and will eventually put out another RFP for tablet devices.

"AFSOC's goal is to provide...an Electronic Flight Bag that is equally cost effective, secure and provides the best technological capability available to our airmen," she said.

[ Tablets are infiltrating every avenue of government. See U.S. Marines Say Yes Sir to Tablets. ]

Duncan added that the cancellation has nothing to do with a published report about the procurement's specification that GoodReader software--which was developed in Russia--will be used with the devices.

The unit had planned to procure 2,861 black iPad2 devices from an authorized Apple reseller to maintain and update the Department of Defense's (DOD's) Flight Information Publications (FLIP) via a "global electronic update infrastructure," according to an earlier notice posted on the site.

The AFSOC's move will not affect a similar one at another Air Force unit, the Air Mobility Command, which also plans to use iPads or equivalent tablet devices for electronic flight materials.

A spokesperson from the Mobility Command said via e-mail Wednesday that it is moving ahead with its plans to procure between 63 and 18,000 tablet devices to act as "electronic flight bags" and has put out a request for proposals.

Apple's mobile OS, iOS--which both iPhones and iPads use--has not officially passed security clearance for use in the federal government. However, Apple is working with the DOD and other government agencies to address the security issue.

Early last year Apple submitted cryptographic modules for iPhone and iPad security to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as part of the validation and certification process required under the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002, which sets security standards for products and services used within the federal government.

Later that year, NIST itself procured 5 iPhones and 55 iPad 2s to begin its own testing to devise the best ways of securing them for government use.

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) also recently released a General Mobile Device (Non-Enterprise Activated) Security Technical Inplementation Guide (STIG) providing security policy and configuration requirements for smartphones or tablets within the DOD as long as they are not connected to a DOD network or enterprise nor process sensitive or classified DOD communications, said DISA spokesperson Alana Casanova via email.

Further, DOD CIOs who want to test iOS can receive what's called an "interim approval to operate" go-ahead to test the devices with DOD email and websites in a controlled environment, she said.

In the meantime, another tablet device already has passed security inspection at the DOD--an Android-based Dell Streak 5. The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has published a Security Technical Implementation Guide (STIG) for the Dell Android mobile platform based on the device, a move that will allow the DOD to distribute the devices to personnel this year.

InformationWeek's 2012 Government IT Innovators program will feature the most innovative government IT organizations in the 2012 InformationWeek 500 issue and on InformationWeek.com. Does your organization have what it takes? The nomination period for 2012 Government IT Innovators closes April 27.

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