BlackBerry Government U.S.
Canadian ambassador to the U.S. David MacNaughton second from left) joins BlackBerry CEO John Chen and others to open BlackBerry Government Solutions in Washington, D.C.

Published: March 13th, 2019

Waterloo, Ont.-based BlackBerry Ltd. announced on Tuesday it’s creating a new subsidiary based in Washington, D.C. called BlackBerry Government Solutions.

The new entity is independent, but wholly owned by BlackBerry, and will serve the purpose of catering to U.S. federal agencies and focusing on the firm’s Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP). It will have a separate corporate governance structure from the Canadian headquarters. A measure that BlackBerry says is necessary to comply with U.S. government security requirements.

According to a press release, the new division will be led by Rear Admiral Robert E. Day Jr., a retired member of the U.S. Coast Guard who joined BlackBerry in 2016. As president of the new firm, he’ll be responsible for navigating certifications required to operate in government and oversee FedRAMP cloud services.

“A tidal wave of connected devices is in sight and I believe BlackBerry is uniquely positioned to help the U.S. government securely build and connect all ‘things’ from ATVs and drones to documents, emails, and the data that flows between,” says BlackBerry CEO John Chen in a press release. “”This new subsidiary allows us to deepen our reach within the U.S. government sector by ensuring our next-generation cyber security solutions and Spark platform meet FedRAMP and ATO certifications, as well as provide our customers with a higher-level of service.”

Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. David MacNaughton joined BlackBerry executives in Washington for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the new office.

Also on Tuesday, BlackBerry Ltd. announced it won a contract with the NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCI). NCI assists NATO members in communicating securely and it will be using BlackBerry’s SecuSuite for Government to that end. The product can be installed on mobile devices, as well as on-premises data centres or in the cloud. It enables encrypted communications and provides high-grade security around VoIP.

BlackBerry isn’t the only company foreign to the U.S. to create a separate governance structure in the country. France-based cloud services provider OVH entered the U.S. market by creating a subsidiary as well, operating two datacentres in the country.

OVH explains its motivations for doing so as two-fold. Like BlackBerry, it wants to maintain compliance with U.S. standards and have at least the opportunity to provide the government with services there. It also points to U.S. laws like the Patriot Act, saying that a clear and permanent separation for OVH operations in other countries is necessary to ensure customer’s data is safe from access from the U.S. government.

In an interview with IT World Canada at OVH Summit last fall, OVH CEO Michel Paulin explained that the U.S. will sometimes argue its laws supersede the local laws of other jurisdictions, as a way to make companies turn over data that is stored outside of its borders.