Research In Motion says its new BlackBerry 10 operating system has won security certification from the U.S. government as the debut approaches of the smartphone platform it’s counting on to revive sales.

BlackBerry 10 handsets and tablet computers have earned a stamp of approval for secure communications known as FIPS 140-2 by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, said Michael Brown, RIM’s vice president for security product management.

It’s the first time that BlackBerrys have been certified for FIPS, or Federal Information Processing Standards, before their commercial debut.

RIM maintains a research and development operation in the Triangle.

RIM, which plans to introduce the operating system in next year’s first quarter, is looking to shore up its support among U.S. government agencies that have been among its biggest and staunchest clients. The company is relying on those customers as it cedes market share among U.S. consumers to Apple Inc.’s iPhone and devices running Google Inc.’s Android software.

The certification should help cement the device’s reputation with government customers as the gold standard for mobile-device security, Brown said.

“‘The FIPS announcement helps our customers understand that we’re going to continue on that path,” Brown said in a telephone interview yesterday. “The benefit there for customers is they have that secure platform to build solutions that allows them to be successful.”

The Defense Department last month said it plans to hire a contractor to build a system that will manage and secure at least 162,500 Android devices and Apple devices, a potential threat to Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM’s dominance in Washington.

Government Fixture

RIM says it has more than 1 million government customers in North America alone. Scott Totzke, senior vice president for BlackBerry security, said in April that sales to U.S. federal agencies are rising and the BlackBerry is still a White House fixture.

RIM shares fell 9.1 percent to $8.24 Wednesday in New York, the biggest decline since June 29 and the first loss in six trading days, after a Pacific Crest Securities report said BlackBerry 10 will struggle to attract buyers.

RIM last week said over 50 carriers have begun lab-testing the new smartphones, spurring a rally in the shares from investors betting that the debut will come early next year.