Following the TSA's lead, the NTSB drops Blackberry for iPhone

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, may join the growing number of government agencies that plan to ditch the BlackBerry in favor of the iPhone. A notice posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website announces that the NTSB is working with Verizon Wireless to supply iPhone 5 handsets to the agency.

In a PDF justification for the "sole source" declaration regarding Verizon and the iPhone 5, the NTSB says that the agency "requires effective, reliable and stable communication capabilities to carry out its primary investigative mission and to ensure employee safety in remote locations." The agency pointed out that BlackBerry handsets "have been failing both at inopportune times and at an unacceptable rate."

The NTSB noted that iPhones are the best solution going forward as they are compatible with the agency's fleet of iPads and can be supported by the existing IT and messaging infrastructure in place there. The NTSB is getting a substantial discount on the iPhone 5 handsets in consideration of the expenditures already incurred to buy BlackBerry units from the carrier.

This isn't the first government group to drop the BlackBerry. Earlier this year, the Defense Department announced it was accepting proposals for an iOS or Android-based software security system for mobile devices. This contract could eventually support up to 8 million devices, says a report in USA Today.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed in September that it would switch its 17,676 mobile users to the iPhone because the BlackBerry could "no longer meet the mobile technology needs of the agency"; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms made a similar move earlier in 2012. The Transportation Security Administration also announced in May that it would drop both BlackBerry and Windows mobile devices and replace them with Apple products in a deal worth $3 million.

Despite these setbacks, beleaguered RIM says it still has "1 million government customers in North America alone who depend on BlackBerry, and more than 400,000 government customers worldwide upgraded their devices in the past year."

[Via WSJ and USA Today]