A Smart Phone for Every Soldier?

A Smart Phone for Every Soldier?

Lured by the promise of rapid updates, easily adaptable software and the ubiquity of cell phone technology, the Army is preparing to offer a smart phone to every soldier.

This decision comes after almost a year of Army testing of phones to see how they can best be used and best made secure. My colleagues at Defense News, Joe Gould and Mike Hoffman, wrote about the latest twist in the Army’s love affair with smart phones. (See Vice Chief of Staff Chiarelli’s repeated and persistent references to his own iPhone, as well as the Army Apps contest and other recent developments.

In addition to supplying every soldier, the Army is likely to pay for the cell phone service, the authors write.

“‘To most soldiers, it sounds almost too good to be true, but it’s real,’ said Lt. Gen. Michael Vane, director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center. He said the Army would issue these smart phones just like any other piece of equipment a soldier receives.

“One of the options, potentially, is to make it a piece of equipment in a soldier’s clothing bag,’ Vane said.”

And here’s what they say are the Army’s next steps:

“The Army plans to roll out wireless Common Access Card readers for the iPhone in January and for Android phones in April. This would give soldiers secure access to their e-mail, contacts and calendars. At war, smart phones would let soldiers view real-time intelligence, video from unmanned systems overhead and track friends and enemies on a dynamic map, officials said.”

But one thing struck me while reading the article. All the quotes are from people who write requirements. There are none from people who buy stuff or from people who create budgets. I spoke with an Army source familiar with the effort who offered this cautionary note: “The next step is putting a procurement and resourcing plan together to manage an effort that large.” Imagine the rules governing cell phone bills! Imagine the complexities of setting up networks in places like Afghanistan. Will the Army build a specialty like the Civil War’s Military Telegraph service?

Imagine what a bonanza this could be for Apple, Google and some global cell phone companies. Any bets that a Karzai crony suddenly wins the cell phone contracts in Afghanistan?

Join the Conversation

OK want to look at military programs that need to go away — here is a prime example of waste fraud and abuse that will get troops killed and leak important data to the enemy. But I bet some congressman is fully behind it though.

Ahhhhh somebody’s jealous!

My blind grandmother asks: Are there enough mobile phone antennas in Talibanistan to make a phone call?

If your talking about me — no I’m not jealous, I’m ticked off at this stupidity. They will never be able to make it soldier proof and field rugged without it becoming too large and heavy to be functionable, card reader will be wasted in no time. Plus you think the wikilink leaks are bad, what do you think will happen when one of these gets stolen or lost, or even worse a troop captured — everyone will be at risk, plus the cost will be high to implement and maintain, imagine a couple hundred thousand bought for a couple thousan each + 200 to 500 a month for service each + replacing at least a 1/4 of them every quarter due to breakage + tech support. No our guys dont need crapp like this taking funds away from things they really need.

Us 11-Bs who already privately own Iphones and the like see a lot of potential in various apps-particularly Maps. It already shows where you are on the battlefield (or rural Georgia, for me :p); other apps show where other people are, and where potential obstacles are. Combine those three features and you’ve got a handheld BFT that could cost virtually nothing, and also has can be used as a Sensitive Site Exploitation tool with still images and video. Furthermore, if they integrate them into the new data networking system then you’ve got the ability to wirelessly pass information around the battlefield.

As for them being easily damaged or breakable…I’ve thrown my old Iphone into a wall as hard as I can without effect, and even put it through the laundry (accidentally) It still worked. These things are alot more rugged than people give them credit for; coming up with a waterproofed case is as simple as plastic and rubber encasing the various ports.

Not to mention that Raytheon already builds “ruggedized” Iphones with specific apps for various parts of the military already and there’s not alot of real complaints. Smartphones are cheaper than rifles. ;)

I spent most of my time from 80 to 2004 beating technology, sneaking past thermal and night vision gear, motion detectors, and intercepting so called secure network comms all the while doing it with off the shelf items that can be purchased out in town. Operators keep this knowledge to themselves because regular units like to put everything into a published manual you can download off the internet and would give the enemy an advantage over the regular military (which is one reason why they are so hard to fight conventionaly right now because they know how your going to travel and how you will react as trained to various combat actions because they have the same manuals you trained to). My point is if we can figure

CONTINUED: out how to beat all this tech then eventualy so can they — not to mention what will happen when they capture (which will become a priority of thiers if these go to the field) one of our guys with this crapp on, they will most likely break him and gain all this on line info. It doesnt matter if your using muskets and cannons or M4’s and tanks, the only way to beat your enemy is to kill them with extream predjudice and deny them any information of your actions, war is war in any century. Based on my experience I would rather have a better combat rifle replacement for the M16/M4 to knock down the enemy than a new gadget to weigh me down further.

There are plenty of COMS people who would strongly disagree with you. Updated, combat tested COMS people, that is…
As far as the cell bill-easy. Uncle Sam can either start its own, using our satellite systems or make a deal for unlimited minutes, per phone and tell the communications company to take it or leave it. No open ended or cost over runs either. I would prefer, for security sake, the military have its own system.

I would rather have both. A weapon that doesn’t jam in the sand and good communications equipment are your best tools in the field.

Until the IRS rewrites the tax law dealing with cellphones as a taxable benefit, the soldiers will have to log each call, etc. Given we can’t get the folks to NOT use their gov’t credit cards except as authorized, what makes you think the soldiers will not abuse the smartphones as well?

There are certainly valid IA concerns here, but card readers are pretty sturdy, and so in fact are the phones themselves. There are some interesting mama bear, papa bear, baby bear form factor considerations, but if you compare this to the desktop paradigm, portable devices win hands down. Are there issues with battery life and disk storage/space– yeah, sure, but we’ve known about that for years. To me, the main constraints are (1) screen space and (2) graphics processing, but those things are moving in the right direction. One does sense a little too much of the gee whiz factor at work, and software management is still a bear from the government’s perspective.

War story time…if anyone remembers General Bill Sweet, former Chief of Staff of VII Corps and Commander of the 56th (Pershing Missile). Livesey’s aide called Sweet “the most professional officer he’s ever known” and I pretty much agree that assessment. We were working late one night, and Sweet was his wonderfully grouchy self. He started complaining about TacFire and how within one hour of the war starting, the artillery would be back to plotting boards and whiz wheels, just like when he was back in ‘Nam. That was my first lesson in the importance of manual backups, but you know, even mechanical things break, too. Most of my tank gunners shot off the M60A1 telescope because they didn’t trust the (mechanical) computer to feed the range data correctly all the time. So the TC would have to announce the range and they would lay the telescope just like in WWII. That all went away with the introduction of laser rangefinders on the M60A3 and M1 tanks.

I have enough issues with the card reader on my desk top, not to mention the wear on the cac card itself from being installed all the time — cant immagine trying to use one in the mud and blood or sand box and it work. Some here must be a lot shorter than me because mine broke just falling off my belt and onto the floor of my office. I JUST DONT LIKE WHERE THIS IS GOING HAVING WITNESSED WHAT HAPPENS WHEN OUR GUYS GET DEPENDENT ON TOYS THEY DONT REALLY NEED IN THE FIRST PLACE.

As much as I see potential here there are plenty of problems too. Ideally we could develop some sort of specific Army “smart phone” that would allow the intelligence, mapping, UAV feed, and military-focused applications with a greater degree of security. But it would probably end up weighing 10 pounds and running out of power in an hour.

Mr. Clark… I see that you eliminated my post which mentioned the acquisition of Halliburton’s poisoned drinking water for U.S. troops (and another post, too).
Even during the time of the Neocons this occurrence appeared on ALL mainstream news, like the serving of rotten meat to U.S. troops, too (and their faulty bullet vests, and so many other scandals), so whom do you STILL owe such favours now, so many years later? Some corporation? Was that a personal favour, an ideological one, are you “just following orders” to defend your livelihood or was it the… “software” ? Can you at least bring yourself now to answer me, or did you lose your courage in the meantime to do it?

I wonder what kind of wood you were carved in.

If you put things like UAV feeds into an iPhone, it opens a whole can of worms if or when said iPhone is lost or captured (when you consider that the most secure thing on an iPhone is your iTunes password…).

Otherwise, non-classified aps, like those used to help soldiers in basic training could be useful… I mean, what’s another recruiting incentive going to hurt?

Its called remote wipe and find my phone. A lot of smartphones have this because businesses require it.

Would free speech martyr Julian Assange still be alive right now, if he owned one of those (sp)iPhones?

@ boomer i was suprised by your post above about the cost issue. it is already required by most units for soldiers to have a phone. and i know for a fact that most of us have uncle sam foot the bill via tax return as it is considered a work expense. i know uncle sam has been reimbursing me for about 6 years now. even replacing broken phone. so how is that any different than the government buying the phones outright and issuing them with specific guidelines and charging the soldier for overages and misuse only? i see it as a win-win the soldiers are happy that they no longer need to go out and purchase one for work and the army is gonna wind up paying the same amount overall if not less.

easy fix just like with gov’t cards make em pay for anything not approved

If they require it then it should be issued and paid for — mine was, My issue is that they dont need to be carrying it in the field and down loaded with pertinent information that could fall into enemy hands. A good briefing gives a soldier all the info he needs to do his job, a good squad leader and rto can keep them up to date, the only way I would want one of these things is if they come with a self destruct button to wipe out all the data on it _ I dont want the enemy knowing troop locations or my personnal contacts who they can identify and use as a threst against me if they get thier hands on it.

The government has it’s own cell phone networks; Cell phone networks are being installed in Afghanistan now using GSM. The military has the ability to support it’s own cell phone integration so the only cost is purchasing and maintenance. Soldiers spill all kinds of stuff over facebook, you tube, or justa phone call home. The smartohone is not going to be a catalyst for spilling information which is already easy to do. We already use our personal cell phones for operational use anyways– It’s easier. test messaging, email, etc. Hell when we have to verify a serial number on a peice of equipment… I use my phone.

Oh goody R-A-D-I-O M-A-N …
Glad you took into account that we already have too litle bandwidth over SATCOM and now you just provided a C3I vulnerability. Try seeing a SA Intel photo w/ 4mb or RAM. Not to mention a logistics freakin’ nightmare for lifecycle and PII headaches for IA. Did I forget to mention SWAP????
You should stay in your COMS swimlane and stay out of the way of Systems.

gotta admit, though — it’s pretty cool technology

I have an idea instead of wasting fricking MONEY and TIME on cell phones, lets make sure the soldiers like my self are getting payed to go on deployments and give our lives for our country this is bullshit. The PRES talking about freezing our pay for three years I say lets gather up the congressman and give them pay cuts »»»> why are they getting ^ figures a years to sit there drink coffee and hang with there family’s when I get a third of that and I dont get to see my family for at least a year»»

Okay, let’s put aside the fact that you sound like a complete retard, and are near impossible to read — and can’t even speak/type in the English language.
The fact that you actually have the guts to come out and say that today’s soldier only looks like they are made for war because of their uniforms and equipment, and the person behind that uniform is just some kid making jokes who doesn’t have the brain of a warrior, makes you a despicable little person.
I see you making retarded comments on other sites as well (such as the one about the Tea Party on this site). Your opinion is worthless. You’re from another country, and no one cares what you say.

Or, conversely, if you’re from this country (which I don’t think you are), then at least learn to speak/write English when talking to adults. And thank a soldier who only knows how to play video games.

We can’t bring cell phones when we go outside the wire. The army already pays for the cellphones for the recruiters as well as many other individuals in the military. I think its a good idea just not while we are pinching penny’s.

How many other pieces of equipment are worth so much, both monetarily and operationally — that can also be lost? Think of AFD — fill device for SINCGARS, etc. Why is this any different? A remote signal to wipe all sensitive data when the phone is activated would be a relatively easy task to accomplish. Soldiers are pounded with keeping track of equipment, like EVERY day.
Yes, things get lost — as we’re human. But in the case of this idea, I think a loss could be relatively easily managed.

The government networks are piggy backs and not stand alones, highly vulnerable. Good thing you didnt work for me because personal electronics and cameras were not allowed on our ops at any time. Too much is being down loaded and stored electronicly which is why we have this wikileaks thing going on and 24/7 hacking these days.

That is the whole thing of this, I have no problem with the troops getting cell phones or being issue laptops or anything like that, I fully support our troops. The ideal behind this abortion is for soldiers to be able to wear it on thier arms to get updated intel — maps — and troop locations which I think is a disaster waiting to happen. You know from being there that the enemy will target anyone with one of these things once they are issued and do all they can to capture our guys dead or alive just to get the info off of them, dont think for a minute that once they learn who your sweetie is back home that they wont harras or go after her/him as well just to demoralize our troops and outrage the public — it is what they live for.

cell phones not only receiving signals but also broadcasting signals. That’s deadly if the signals captured by the enemy!!!!

Don’t get any point of this…


One must conclude from momomimamo’s remarks that he or she falls well to the left side of the bell shaped curve of human intelligence. One wonders if the IQ possessed by this individual tops 50.

Oh well, delusions are often functional, and one may hope that momomimamo’s delusion works for him.

Deal gently with momomimamo; the light of intelligence flickers dimly within him. Think of him as being Winnie The Pooh, “a bear with very little brain”.

Best wishes,

Former Naval Flight Officer sends.

But just think of the opportunities for tactical deception !!

It does give a particularly poignant ring to the traditional “sensitive items report”, doesn’t it ? Nonetheless, something worth targeting this way is by definition, valuable. The nature of war always has this kind of friction. But to be just super blunt here — I trust our seasoned leaders to work out the tactics, techniques and procedures to make this work. Just like I turn off my cellphone in meetings and in my car when I’m not using it. Ground soldiers need to think about the electronic dimension of combat — and use it to advantage. You need the discipline to go from cold to hot without stepping all over yourself — and it’s always been that way. Start thinking about creating the battlespace the way you want it to be and stop cringing at the thought of that invisible crow just around the corner. In other words, think offense all the time and make the enemy dance to your tune, not you to his. This is what the LIC/COIN crowd has lost sight of. You are ALWAYS outside the wire.

The ARMY Isnt Like It Was When I Was In I Inlisted In 1984 The Last Of The Hard Knox Where The Drill Sgts Would Kick The Crap Out Of You NO TIME OUTS WHINNINGS You Took It Or Got Out!!!! You Didnt Have All This Equipment You Had M-16/2 A Map No Showers No Pizzia KC Chicken Brugers XBOX No Wander These Kids Are So Messed Up Getting Killed, I Was Hard On My Men And They Understood Inches Away Looking At Russian Tanks Not Knowing If There Was Going To Be A Fire Fight Then Desert Storm We Were Used As Human Pigs We Got Hit With The Chemicals Biology Nerve Agent Muster Gas And Our suits And Masks Didnt Even Work But We Made It Back Home I Really Feel For These Soldiers The Army Needs To Go Back To HARD KNOX !!!!!!

I think these would be useful without being reliable; as many here have said — do not rely on it, just use it up. When if fails — just step on it and drive on. They cost so little it doesn’t matter. We in the IT industry are concerned with informational security also. We have to set up laptops and smart phones with programs that self destruct the data if the wrong password is entered, or if a second factor authorization using biometrics fails.

If implemented properly, these security steps are very effective; and BTW, an enemy with one of these in his hands can be plotted with GPS for an artillery mission, so the stupid enemy would become cannon fodder real quick. It sounds to me like they finally found a way to implement the old “Battlefield 2000″ concept brought up in the 90’s, that entailed a futuristic communications media concept, but it was right under their nose. We are already using it in civilian life and winning the war with the crackers and industrial espionage agents; why not the military?

Please reference my answer to William C. above, I think this covers your scenario.

Of course! We do that everyday in IT!

True! But apparently Eric has not heard of encrypted traffic. If it weren’t for the fact that the enemy is carrying cell phone too(used for setting of IEDs), I would say the signal would give you away. But I’ve never heard of a haji carrying a sophisticated signal locator around on the battlefield. I suppose there is always a first in any circumstances, but I’m not worried about it. We already use jamming in the field for enemy cell phones. That isn’t any secret.

The Army can keep their cell phones I’m content with the one that I have. I’d rather my BAH not go down in 2011 than them issue me a smart phone.

how bout you get your sorry a$$ through basic and airborne training like we did and tell me if we arent ready for war. I love the American way of looking at troops who are putting their life on the line for the fata$$es back here. Most ungrateful people in the world

I can only guess, unlike others commenting, is that your first language isn’t English. Fine, I can live with that. However, I can see SOME of your point, but in WW2, Korea, and Vietnam those conflicts were fought by different generations, generations that didn’t grow up with the technological advances we have today. If you’re implying that those technological advances may weaken a soldier and make them “softer” or only have the “appearance” of being ready for war, well, that can be argued A LOT of ways, but I’ll say this any illusion of “Xbox” style combat would be a rude awakening for ANY soldier and throw any misconceptions about video game warfare out the window FAST. Even one who enters the military is, as you say, one who cracks jokes, plays CoD, and ignores the rest of the world (of which, yes, there is plenty of that which goes on) if the military is doing their job correctly (which I believe they are) that type of attitude and mindset is rapidly changed and grown. Just my 2 cents.

Thanks for standing up for another, buddy. That’s what soldiering is al about, not to mention civil life and conversation.
Your 2 cents are really worth a bundle of money!

I think it’s pretty fine to give smart phones to soldiers because they need fast paced and high tech features too. It’s just that I suggest they just buy phone card online to prevent them from over using or abusing their phone data plan.


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