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News briefs: Week of Aug. 19

Aug. 19, 2013 - 08:41AM   |  
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DoD: 30-Day Approval Process for Mobile Devices

The Defense Department is overhauling its lengthy process for approving new smartphones, tablet computers and apps for DoD use.

The goal is to review and approve mobile apps and devices within 30 days by coordinating with industry in advance so vendors are building to department standards, said Jennifer Carter, the component acquisition executive at the Defense Information Systems Agency. DoD can then verify that those standards have been met rather than retesting the technology, which often bogs down the approval process.

“The traditional DoD cycle times do not meet what is needed to get these capabilities out to the warfighter, and we don’t want to be where by the time we issue the device it’s obsolete and … you have to buy it on eBay,” said Carter, who spoke at a DISA industry event Friday at Fort Meade, Md.

A new contract awarded in June to manage DoD’s mobile devices is expected to be fully operational by April, she said.

Carter highlighted two upcoming mobility contracts, including a mobile applications enterprise solutions contract to provide mobile access to office applications. DISA plans to release a request for information early next fiscal year but has not set a date for releasing a request for proposal. DISA will seek industry bids on a second mobility contract, called the gateway procurement, in the first quarter of fiscal 2014, Carter said. DISA expects to award the contract sometime between February and April.

She encouraged vendors to consider ways to make DoD systems and applications accessible via mobile devices.

Speeding the review and approval process will require accepting more risks, she said. For example, there’s a possibility new technology may not work perfectly the first time it’s adopted, and mobile users may have to wait to get newer devices or capabilities while DISA works out the kinks.

“We want to get in partnership with industry folks before they release products so that when they do release it we can turn around and buy it because it’s now available,” she said. Carter added that if DoD “waited for a product to mature and be completely proven before we started the process to offer that as a capability, we would always be again behind the curve.”

Declassified CIA Docs Acknowledge That Area 51 Exists

After years of government denials, the CIA is acknowledging in newly declassified documents the existence of Area 51, the mysterious site in central Nevada that has spawned top-secret tools, weapons and not a few UFO conspiracies.

George Washington University’s National Security Archive obtained a CIA history of the U-2 spy plane program through a public records request and released it Thursday.

National Security Archive senior fellow Jeffrey Richelson reviewed the history in 2002, but all mentions of Area 51 had been redacted.

Richelson said he requested the history again in 2005 and received a version a few weeks ago with mentions of Area 51 restored.

Officials have already acknowledged in passing the existence of the facility in central Nevada where the government is believed to test intelligence tools and weapons.

Richelson believes the new document shows the CIA is becoming less secretive about Area 51’s existence, if not about what goes on at the site 90 miles north of Las Vegas.

The references are found in a CIA history of the U-2 reconnaissance program written in 1992.

The history even recalls the first time CIA project director Richard Bissell and Air Force Col. Osmund Ritlandt spotted the site, which was then an old airstrip by the salt flat named Groom Lake.

They viewed it from aboard a small Beechcraft plane piloted by Tony LeVier, Lockheed’s chief test pilot.

The documents say the group agreed that the location “would make an ideal site for testing the U-2 and training its pilots,” according to the history.

The lightweight U-2 spy plane was being built by Lockheed at its top-secret “Skunk Works” plant in Burbank, Calif.

President Eisenhower later approved adding the airstrip, “known by its map designation as Area 51,” to what was then called the Nevada Test Site.

“To make the facility in the middle of nowhere sound more attractive to his workers, (Skunk Works founder) Kelly Johnson called it the Paradise Ranch, which was soon shortened to the Ranch,” according to the document.

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