By Mark Milian
updated 3:49 PM EST, Fri February 3, 2012
-- Some U.S. officials this year are expected to get smartphones capable of handling classified government documents over cellular networks, according to people involved in the project.
The phones will run a modified version of Google's Android software, which is being developed as part of an initiative that spans multiple federal agencies and government contractors, these people said.
The smartphones are first being deployed to U.S. soldiers, people familiar with the project said. Later, federal agencies are expected to get phones for sending and receiving government cables while away from their offices, sources said. Eventually, local governments and corporations could give workers phones with similar software.
The Army has been testing touchscreen devices at U.S. bases for nearly two years, said Michael McCarthy, a director for the Army's Brigade Modernization Command, in a phone interview. About 40 phones were sent to fighters overseas a year ago
, and the Army plans to ship 50 more phones and 75 tablets to soldiers abroad in March, he said.