By the middle of the month, iPhones and iPads will likely pass a Pentagon security review that will result in their use, for the first time, on military networks.

As part of the Pentagon’s big push into the mobile-device market, the Defense Department has already issued so-called Security Technical Implementation Guides, or STIGs, for BlackBerry 10 phones and Playbook tablets, and for Samsung’s Android-powered Knox phone. Apple will not be left out.

“We expect to release the iOS STIG sometime in the next two weeks,” says Air Force Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a Pentagon spokesman.

The Pentagon still has “a few open questions” about how Apple’s operating system — and the high-end devices it powers — will lock down its sensitive data, Pickart says. But it’s issued an “interim STIG” for the latest version of iOS, iOS 6, indicating that the obstacles are minor. It’s a bureaucratic irony of the mobile age: Apple desktop and laptop computers still aren’t cleared to access military networks, but iPhones and iPads will be.

None of this means the Pentagon is actually buying troops any tablets or smartphones — yet. But military “user groups” interested in accessing Pentagon networks on the move now have approval to use these select devices. For instance: the Army’s Combined Arms Center, which recently developed a book about Afghanistan for the iPad, or whomever will end up using the Pentagon’s experimental biometrics-scanning smartphone.

As might be expected, the military is moving very cautiously into the mobile market. The vast majority of mobile devices already in use in the Department of Defense are BlackBerrys, much like with the rest of the government — some 470,000 of them. The first new devices with security clearances for military networks? Um, BlackBerry phones and tablets.

To think, just months ago, a rumor circulated that the Pentagon was ditching BlackBerry for iPhones and iPads. LOL.

It’s not clear when the Pentagon will use that market power to finally issue orders for specific smartphones and tablets. The Pentagon’s top information-security officials speak about purchasing a “family of devices” for military use, yet it’ll be weeks or months before any of those devices actually make their way to troops’ pockets and backpacks. Most likely, by the time the first military mobile orders get issued, Apple products will be among them.

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