updated 05:12 pm EDT, Wed March 20, 2013
Sequester holding up purchase, intended to replace failing devices
(Updated with more information from the Department of Defense) Electronista has discovered that the mobile device testing program currently underway at the Department of Defense has produced a pending purchase order for Apple hardware. Following completion of the first phases of the project, as well as a few other initiatives coming to fruition, the Department of Defense will be ordering just over 650,000 iOS devices from the Cupertino manufacturer following conclusion of the sequester.
Previous reports had revealed that the testing program had cut out BlackBerry 10 devices in an effort to save money. While the testing program is still underway, our well-placed sources familiar with the matter have told us that "some of the needs can't wait" and as soon as the sequester was over, the order would be placed.
We were told that the breakdown was 120,000 iPads, 100,000 iPad minis, 200,000 iPod touches, and the remaining 210,000 filled by various iPhones. Specific models were not shared, and would likely be specified at the time of the cessation of sequester spending restrictions. Ultimate destinations for the hardware varies, with Electronista being told that "more than half are headed to the battlefield, afloat, and to associated support commands. Most of the rest will stay [at the Pentagon]."
Another source familiar with the situation told us that the iOS devices were intended to replace nearly all the older BlackBerry devices, now incompatible with the new BlackBerry 10 software release. Statistics gathered from devices deployed by the DoD show 470,000 BlackBerry devices in daily use, none of which use the new BlackBerry 10 operating system. Testing of the new operating system has been gravely impacted by the sequester, and the outright elimination of funds earmarked for the BlackBerry 10 platform may never be restored.
Overall impact on commercial information technology as a result of the sequester depends on the sector. Most departments are taking the DoD's route and paring back new equipment purchases. Dell and Google have already seen an increase in service sales to the federal government. Unexpectedly, planned hardware purchases have been mostly delayed, but not cancelled. The US government spent just short of $80 billion on information technology in 2012, and the sequester is seeing a larger bite taken out of IT funds than other segments of government spending.
Update: A telephone interview that a department of defense spokesman had with Computerworld has shed some more light on the situation. The initial telephone conversation claims that the information obtained "is not from an official DoD source" and notes that the BlackBerry platform is not being dumped. Following these remarks, Electronista readdressed the report and follow-up remarks with sources, who claim that the report of the purchase order is accurate, but emphasized that the purchase awaits rectification of the government's financial situation, as previously reported.