ATF to drop BlackBerrys and switch to iPhones

Starting this month, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) will begin replacing its BlackBerry smart phones with Apple iPhones.

The move was announced by Rick Holgate, the ATF’s chief technology officer in an interview with Politico. By the end of 2012, the bureau plans to swap out some 3,800 BlackBerrys. More than 60 percent of the replacement devices will be iPhones.

Initially, the transition kicks off in March with the replacement of some 2,400 BlackBerrys used by special agents in the field. The ATF is also considering phasing out some 1,400 remaining BlackBerry devices with a mix of other handhelds, Holgate told Politico. The bureau is also finishing a pilot program with some 200 iPads.

But before it signs off on the iPhones, Holgate said that the ATF will be beefing ups its mobile-device infrastructure by scaling up licensing and upgrading its mobile management software.

“The government has been very comfortable with the BlackBerry model for 10 years. Now we’re looking to move beyond that,” he told Politico.

In a sign of the continuing erosion of RIM’s government market, the ATF is now the second government agency to move away from BlackBerry.

In February, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that it was switching over mostly to iPhones and iPads. NOAA CIO Joe Klimavicz told GCN that he was unsure if his organization would eliminate all of its BlackBerrys, but noted that the goal of the effort was to provide employees with a variety of wireless options.

NOAA has implemented Google Apps for Government, which makes it possible to manage cross-platform devices and eliminates the need for a third-party server, such as BlackBerry Enterprise Server, which it will support only through May 2012.

“It’s hard to ignore the direction the federal government is going with allowing a diversity of mobile devices into the environments,” Klimavicz said.

About the Author

Connect with the GCN staff on Twitter @GCNtech.

Reader Comments

Tue, Sep 25, 2012 Taylor Sharpe Dallas, TX

There sure are some iPhone hatter comments here. Few seem to acknowledge that the iPhone is a secure device. Yes, in the past there was a time when it wasn't. But who cares about the past... they are buying what is there now. And you can't beat the iOS for available apps. Speaking of this... do you really want secure apps or something anyone can make? At least Apple reviews all apps and does a basic analysis of security to make sure your apps are not security risks. Android has a real vulnerability since their apps do not get such a security review. If ATF is going to jump to something, iOS has a pretty good story compared to the competition. Of course you can always go with Windows Phone... but Microsoft is soooo far behind in the mobile market. Then again, government IT people seem to love anything with the word "Microsoft" stamped on it. I think it is about time that government procurement people ask what they are getting instead of who it is coming from.

Thu, Mar 8, 2012 Bob DC

NOAA went to Google DOC and when you drop Exchange you drop the BES. So the focus should be on Microsoft market erosion not RIM. RIM was Collateral Damage. Having the ATF switch to a less secure service is stupid on their part. Govt systems are for business not fun and for Govt systems subject to attack by national actors and sophisticated cartel hackers to change to a less secure mobile device is deriliction to duty. What a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Wed, Mar 7, 2012 Charlie Cumulus Wash DC

Think of the [$ Millions per year in] cost savings when you no longer have to maintain the Blackberry Enterprise Server in house! Imagine if for your phone you also had to run a server and hire 24/7 staff? The RIM business model is anachronistic.

Tue, Mar 6, 2012 Steve

I understand the need to move beyond RIM before the ship sinks, but trading RIM for another proprietary system is not a smart move as it will only limit future options.

Tue, Mar 6, 2012

I've always said you buy an iPhone because you don't have the intelligence to use anything better. Guess the ATF showed us where they stand.

Show All Comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above