The Defense Department this week stiffened its policy on cellphone use inside the Pentagon but stopped short of the complete ban that had been under consideration and which would’ve marked a major day-to-day change for the tens of thousands of employees who work inside the sprawling facility.
The new protocol was first reported by The Associated Press, citing an internal Pentagon memo that was made public late Tuesday. The document applies to “laptops, tablets, cellular phones, smartwatches, and other devices,” and represents the latest effort by government and military officials who oversee the nation’s secrets to figure out how best to handle powerful technological devices that have become ubiquitous in American life.
Under the revamped policy — which had been a matter of debate for months inside the Defense Department — cellphone use will still be allowed in common areas of the building, such as cafeterias and restaurants, and in any office where no classified information is present.
Inside offices where classified information is being discussed, or where such information can be found on computers on documents, the Pentagon will tighten policies that require all electronic devices to be turned off and left in secured storage containers outside the room. The policy will be enforced through random inspections inside those classified areas.
It’s almost certain the tougher policy will require the construction of new secure containers throughout the building, though officials said they don’t yet have a cost estimate for that project.
At its core, the new policy aims to address the ever-increasing capabilities of modern cellphones and to protect the military’s most closely held information.
“In this day and age, with the level of threat-based technologies, most of those devices should never get anywhere near a classified workspace,” Garry Reid, the Defense Department’s director for defense intelligence, told the AP on Tuesday. “We know that mobile wireless devices have recording capabilities and cameras, and it’s not appropriate for those to be in secure workspaces. So we have to put control procedures in place.”
“The Pentagon is a bit of a unique environment where you have everything from public tours to varying levels of classified workspaces,” he continued.
Throughout much of the massive complex, cellphone reception is virtually nonexistent.
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