And You Think Your Cell-Phone Bill Is High.

Something caught my eye in this piece at TPM about how the military is looking at equipping soldiers with smartphones:

The Army first needs to find a way to build its own portable, secure 3G network in places like Afghanistan. That means, according to Fuiza, shrinking normally 100-foot cell phone towers into small units with portable antennas that can be affixed to trucks or backpacks. It also would require that the Army create not only its own apps, but also its own app "store" -- and a way to screen apps for viruses and other security threats. And, it definitely means finding a phone that's tough enough to endure battle conditions.

The Army is currently testing phones, according to spokeswoman Annie Gammell. Yesterday, in fact, soldiers at Fort Bliss in Texas were testing a phone and system built by Monax, a division of Lockheed Martin that's trying to get into the tactical 3G market.

The Army is also looking at phones your average consumer would be familiar with, like the iPhone or phones on the Android system, Fuiza said.

Today's phones may not be able to withstand a hit from an RPG, but they're pretty tough. The last time you dropped your phone, did it break? No, it didn't. Many smartphones today use Gorilla Glass, which is almost impossible to scratch. Take a regular iPhone or Droid, put a rubber case around it, and for $210 you've probably got something sufficiently up-armored for the vast majority of the soldier's needs.

But that's not how things work, of course. Why would you buy a phone from one of the companies that has produced millions of them, when you can have Lockheed Martin make one? And you know why Lockheed Martin is going to get this contract? It might have something to do with the more than $10 million to 15 million they spend on lobbying every year, which pays for hundreds of lobbyists to make sure their petitions for redress of grievances are well heard.

And how much do you want to bet that the Lockheed Martin phone that gets produced will kind of suck, yet nevertheless cost taxpayers $10,000 per phone?

-- Paul Waldman

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