BlackBerry launches new US subsidiary in push to earn more federal contracts

BlackBerry launches new US subsidiary in push to earn more federal contracts
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BlackBerry on Tuesday officially opened a new D.C.-based branch aimed at helping the tech company secure more contracts with the federal government.

The new subsidiary, known as BlackBerry Government Solutions, is largely focused on the firm’s projects that fall under the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), the government-wide program on cloud security that companies must comply with in order to earn federal contracts.

Speaking with reporters at the event, BlackBerry CEO John Chen said that BlackBerry -- which is based in Canada -- finds itself not being included in federal work, even if its technology and products will some times be used by federal contractors. 

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"We want to make sure that BlackBerry is in the program, and this is why we're investing," Chen said.

BlackBerry is based in Canada, and concerns about the risks of hosting data in foreign countries, where it could potentially be accessed by third-parties or become a national security risk, has been an issue for federal governments.

For example, the U.S. has cracked down on Chinese tech giants like Huawei, saying the firm's close ties to the Chinese government pose a national security risk.

Bob Day, the president of the new subsidiary and a retired rear admiral in the U.S. Coast Guard, said that he views the launch of the D.C.-based branch as a model that could be replicated in other countries.

He said that other nations, like Canada and Australia, are creating their own security requirements like the U.S.'s FedRAMP, and that he can see BlackBerry setting up similar foreign offices down the road in to ensure that BlackBerry products are compliant with the various government regulations.

"More and more we're seeing agencies make that determination...that people are saying, 'I want the data in this country' and 'I want only the people who are accessing that data to be in this country,'" Day said.

BlackBerry says that it’s currently being used to cover security and data privacy in nearly all federal agencies.

Chen also said that the company serves as the mobile standard for the majority of the so-called Five Eyes countries, the nations including the U.S. that share intelligence with each other.