BlackBerry Wins $20 Mil Veterans Affairs Contract

BlackBerry Veterans Affairs

Benjamin KrauseBlackBerry just announced its new multi-year contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide phones and services to the technologically impaired agency. In reality, VA was previously using a service provider called AtHoc that BlackBerry just bought.

According to the announcement, BlackBerry will deliver the services on the AtHoc networked crisis communications platform that will support the VA Notification System and VA Personnel Accountability System.


CEO of BlackBerry is Hong Kong businessman John S. Chen. Chen was born overseas but educated in the United States. Previously, he was CEO and president of Sybase, a software vendor specializing in data management, analytics and mobility tech. Chen is currently a director of Walt Disney Company and Wells Fargo & Company.

Many of you may recall Sec. Bob McDonald’s relationship with Disney and VA’s apparent love fest with the Disney model of customer service. Perhaps they hope to convince veterans that so long as they believe they are getting good health care, then that health care must be good… Kind of like in Aladdin.

BlackBerry acquired AtHoc in 2015 along with Good Technology.

The AtHoc website works with the US federal government, leading corporations, healthcare institutions, and universities including:

  • US Dept of Homeland Security
  • US Dept of Health and Human Services
  • US Dept of Defense
  • Kaiser Permanente Healthcare
  • Microsoft
  • Eastman Chemical
  • UCLA
  • American Red Cross

Now, VA will join the list. Or, maybe not if AtHoc was embarrassed about having VA on the list since they were already customers in some manner.

Noteworthy on this list is Kaiser Permanente. Some readers may recall VA teamed up with Kaiser to develop its “population management platform.” VA intended to connect data points with Kaiser for 1) population management and large data set analytics; 2) genomics; 3) connected health and virtual care; and, 4) care of patients who are veterans and also members of the Kaiser system.


AtHoc provides the following services:

“AtHoc enables organizations to communicate with their people through numerous devices, and empowers organizations to create their own permission-based network to establish interoperable communication with other organizations in their community. The result: commercial and government leaders can effectively protect the people and organizations they care about. Around the block, around the world.”


One comment about the contract was curious and worth highlighting here:


“BlackBerry (BBRY -2.1%) has won a multiple-year delivery order from the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

Multiple years can be anywhere from 2-99 years.

“BlackBerry will deliver its AtHoc networked crisis communications platform to support the VA Notification System and VA Personnel Accountability System. (PR)”

VA was already a customer. The problem when you announce wins one by one, When you stop announcing them, you are in a world of hurt. It has little marketing value. You see BBRY announced wins in BES12 and the customers stay away. when you announce what you have, I see what you don’t have or don’t announce.

“BlackBerry acquired AtHoc in November 2015, which provided a boost to FQ3 earnings. Thanks in part to its purchases of Good Technology and AtHoc, software and services revenue rose to account for 29% of total revenues in FQ3, versus 15% in FQ2.”

All kinds of factual errors.

AtHoc closed in Sep, not Nov. Good closed in early Nov.

Athoc did not boost earnings, it destroyed earnings. The securities report shows a loss of 10M on 10M revenue or 100% operating loss. And separately Good also showed a loss of 10M in 10M of revenue as well for those 25 days in Nov. So Both Athoc and Good are losing money like a XXXX. (negative 100% operating margin) Some of it will be closed due to cost cuts but that’s why BBRY bought them, these are broken companies with no financial future.

Athoc looks like a 40M a year revenue company losing 40M annually which BBRY shareholders bought for 275M. This purchase won’t make a dime. You better hope there is value to sell. A network crisis, i.e text is not exactly a business model. It’s just glorified text/email message. It’s a dumb purchase. No strategic value, you but revenues but it costs twice as much to support the revenue.

So let’s hope the system they use or continue to use will provide the services they need without allowing private veterans’ data to be compromised. Do you think BlackBerry is the right move?


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  1. BlackBerry will; more than likely want to use every ones WIFI for one big network and storage no no not mine.

  2. Check out the story that’s coming out of Jackson, Miss. about the VA appointment of this Skye McDougall as the new director of the South Central VA Health Care Network. Several Congressional law makers are upset about that and are writing letters complaining to Sec. McDonald about it. They’re accusing the VA of “hopscotching” McDougall around to fit her in some place after she gave false testimony to Congress about medical waiting times while she was Director Desert VA Pacific Health Care Network.

    1. @Dennis
      Yea, I read about that a few weeks ago. Seems she was first to take over Phoenix VAMC. But, McCain put up a fuss. So McDonald sent the bitch to the southeast.
      I contacted a news reporter out of Alabama asap. Haven’t heard anything back. Guess they got more important things to do. Other than protecting veterans!!??

  3. Blackberry and the Government has kept this useless company in business this has been the only way this pathetic company has survived w government contracts has anyone owned a BB in the past 10 yrs bcoz their technology sucks and have been left behind so those brainiacs at the VA obviously don’t give a dam about how they BB technology is abissmal

  4. To all.
    Y’all need to go over to
    VAWatchdog dot org

    I just received the following info:
    400,000 veterans have appeals waiting.
    80,000 have appeals older than 5 years.

    There’s more. Check it out.
    Now we know “WHY” VA has a lower number in their “Claims Dept.” they denied all of them…….

    1. That is so messed-up…but…we all pretty much had a feeling that when the VA stated they were “knocking down their Claim Backlogs”, that it really was just a matter of large marge moving one large stack to another even larger stack.

      Word of the day is….Large.

  5. Interesting to see that the VA advertised on USAJobs for a GS13 Emergency Management Specialist in March 2014. Their job is to be responsible for VA PAS.

    Although it says Status Candidates can apply, it says VEOA eligibles can also apply. I wonder if a veteran was ignored in favor of an AFGE thug.

    I also wonder how an Emergency Management Specialist will manage a software program involving sending notifications to Blackberry’s. Or will this person just supervise a GS12 IT guy who clicks a button?

  6. Without knowing details of both the VA Notification System and VA Personal Accountability System, I can only guess this is nothing more than a glorified calling tree. If you look up the VA Personal Accountability System, you can find a VA looking web page on a domain explaining it, and a VA Directive on it. Really it is nothing more than an emergency notification capability for the VA to notify their employees of a national incident or safety issue. The Directive has several acronyms, because what is a Government boondoggle without acronyms. There are VA-PAS and VANS, but all essentially spells out how they will notify employees…and surprisingly…be accountable.
    Given my experience with Blackberry, syncing problems and other general problems, I would be surprised if they get this working. What a huge waste of money. Buying phones for government employees who likely already have personal phones, and can respond via text or email to a notification. Imagine getting a notification at the San Diego VA that you have to respond to for a lock down incident occurring in Bangor, Maine.

  7. Question first, is this “BlackBerry Company” the same company which made the “BlackBerry phone”?

    It seems to me there’s more
    to this “contract” than what’s being let out.

    In my opinion, There’s also a form of “nepotism” going on! Is anyone related between BlackBerry and VA, other than the other companies BlackBerry is associated with?

    How did VA and “BlackBerry” contract together? What “incentives” were within the contract to VA upper management?
    ie; “Who” profited from this contract within VA?

    Why would VA contract with a company, who’s Quarterly earnings cancel out their profits? Will our government “bail out” BlackBerry. If they continue on a downward spiral in profits?

    Lots of questions, no answers!!

    1. @crazyelf-

      Again, we think a lot alike because I was just going to comment about how the Blackberry Company has been constantly on the precipice of Bankruptcy because of those very profit margins and not being able to effectively compete with Android/Apple and all the Carriers that are more and more doing exclusive contracts with wifi coverage.
      It would be just like the VA to partner with another Black Hole of a Company, right?

      Incentives for employees and management is what I am thinking as well.

      You can bet there will not be “Free Obama Blackberry Phones For Veteran’s” Program from this. Maybe I am just getting old and cynical but we have seen this technology and VA thing play out before and it always costs tons of money and always fails.

      Will the VA or Gov’t. be bailing Blackberry out if and when they collapse?


      1. @namnibor
        I also want to know “How long is this contract for?” And, will Chen receive $20 million/year for as long as this fubar of a contract lasts?
        The “article” Ben is referencing says something like “2 to 99 years!”

        If y’all will remember, way back around 1921 the head of what was then VA “entered into a 99 year contract with a floor polish company!” When the POTUS found out his “poker buddy” was involved in the “skimming off the taxpayers!” He was then “caught choking the Director in the White House!”
        (I did fact check this information. It’s in the Smithsonian.)

    2. Yes it is the same company. Blackberry seems to be the preferred phone for government muckety-mucks mainly because of security. For years they were the only phone government would approve for use because of that security, but there has been movement to Android and iPhones. Blackberry’s were considered more secure because of their operating system software, and because all their communications such as text and email went through Blackberry’s servers. Blackberry being a Canadian company has those servers in Canada. Hillary used a Blackberry for some time, and it has been speculated in the media that some of her missing emails might still be in their servers.
      Blackberry was a very solid company until they tried expanding in to the civilian cell phone market several years ago. About 2012, they released a couple software updates that were a disaster, along with the general problems inherent in people that didn’t know how to find an on/off switch trying to maintain their phones. I gave up on Blackberry after their software disaster, and about a year or two later, Blackberry said they were pulling back from the civilian market and focussing more on the corporate or government market. Their company tanked for awhile, but they must be recovering some now, and huge, wasteful government contracts will help.

  8. What’s a bit ‘creepy’ about the combined companies with higher tech and Disney and now the VA is the controversial privacy concerns Disney has caused of concern with their brand new RFID Disney Bracelets they require all to wear and it’s under guise of finding lost loved ones but a program I just watched showed where the technology actually allows Disney to track every move and provide marketing metrics and even marketing manipulation with the tech interacting with surroundings.
    Mix this possibility with Kaiser Medical and Homeland Security and now the VA…makes me a bit leery in a Stephen King kind of way.

    So, what’s next? Tagging we Vets like cattle? You know, for Big Pharma research?

    Also, now I presume all these VA Employees will get brand new Blackberry screen devices so they can play Minecraft while on the crapper o wherever ignoring Veteran’s needs may take them?

    Cynical and snowy morning here. I would rather hear that new tech collaboration would be helping vets that need say prosthetics with wifi, et al. This smells of free phones to AFGE VA Employees, nothing less. I may be off, but I still smell Troll from yesterday bleeding through Monday’s article. LOL!

    1. @namnibor
      Yep you got questions. And there ain’t no answers. At least we veterans ain’t going to hear them.

      Yes, it looks like we had an SES “Troll” on here yesterday. He really pissed me off.
      He couldn’t, when he wrote his first comment, remember his ETS date. After I read it, I realized he was an “Air Force Era Vet”. I’m not taking away his service, mind you! Only, I’ve seen too many Era Vets
      fμ€k over Vietnam Vets at VA.
      And now with these new wars going on. I’m seeing these same things happening to these new veterans. The VA hires “era veterans” to take care of “combat veterans!” They still haven’t learned a damn thing!

    2. On your comment about tech helping vets, I’ve seen a Facebook post about a kid writing a software application that helps his dad with PTSD sleep. As I understand it, the application somehow detects when his dad might be having a nightmare, and the phone vibrates or does something to slightly wake him out of his nightmare.
      Why does the VA not offer that? Why does the VA not contract for that?
      Very likely because some politically connected crony or friend of VA cannot profit from it.

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