For smartphone manufacturers and telecommunications companies, there’s a highly competitive marketplace in the United States today, with many equally capable big-name brands competing to sell more phones and lock in more subscribers. This is why they engage in long, protracted marketing campaigns to attract consumers, tirelessly, one at a time. But of course, there’s one strategy that can lead to hundreds of thousands of new patrons overnight: landing a lucrative contract with the U.S. military.

According to the Washington Post, there’s currently a fight brewing to see who will secure the rights to provide the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps with modern smartphone technology, and for the winner, the contract represents a multi-billion-dollar opportunity. Unsurprisingly, the race has prompted an intense level of advertising activity in Washington, D.C. AT&T, for example, has bought nearly every advertisement in the Pentagon metro station, and Samsung just opened a federal solutions center at 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, right near the U.S. Capitol.

It’s not a secret what these companies are up to.

“The reason we’re here is to be close to that building,” said Chris Balcik, vice president of federal government sales at Samsung, pointing to the Capitol.

The military deal in question is the Next Generation Enterprise Networks contract, which has been handled by the federal arm of Hewlett Packard since 2013. Now, though, the military telecom contract is up for renegotiation, and a number of suitors are considering a move to steal it away. In addition to the big names like AT&T and Samsung, the federal IT company CSRA has also shown some interest, and there’s also a dream team of four companies—Verizon, Leidos, Unisys, and IBM—that are working together to make a bid of their own. By year’s end, one bid is expected to be chosen.

For whoever wins the contract, significant challenges will lie ahead, with cybersecurity chief among them. When the military uses consumer gadgets, it often has problems with the devices reporting data on their activities and locations, and military leaders have expressed concern that leaking this information could introduce new vulnerabilities. For Samsung and others, the key to landing this contract will be to demonstrate they can help address security issues.

“We want to make sure that Samsung is part of the solution,” Balcik said. “Not part of the problem.”

Photo: U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus poses for a selfie with a U.S. Marine after a 2015 Memorial Day service. Credit: Glynnis Jones /