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DOD Looks for More Robust, Enduring Telework Capacity

Oct. 28, 2020 | BY C. Todd Lopez , DOD News

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, many Defense Department employees began teleworking. The department brought on board the "commercial virtual remote" environment in March to enable that telework. The department's principal deputy chief information officer said the CVR effort has paid off well.

A man stands behind a lectern. Behind him, he is seen on a large video screen.
John B. Sherman
John B. Sherman, the principal deputy chief information officer for the Defense Department, speaks during the DOD Intelligence Information System Worldwide Conference in Tampa, Fla., Aug. 20, 2019. At the time, Sherman served as the intelligence community's chief information officer.
Photo By: David Richards, DOD
VIRIN: 190820-D-SG895-0006M

"This has been nothing short of amazing the way the Department of Defense responded to the COVID crisis, particularly from a teleworking perspective, deploying the commercial virtual remote, or CVR, capability in March in just mere weeks," John Sherman said today at C4ISRNET's Cybercon 2020 conference.

Over a million users are now making use of the CVR environment to do telework, teaming, calls and video conferences, Sherman said.

A screenshot shows the faces of people on a teleconference.
Army employees from Fort McCoy, Wis., holding an April 14, 2020, video teleconference as they telework during the COVID-19 pandemic illustrate that facetime doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is in the same location.
Photo By: Graphic illustration by Scott Sturkol, DOD
VIRIN: 200414-O-ZZ999-001M
A man uses a computer in his home.
A Defense Department employee teleworks, April 1, 2020.
Photo By: April Gail Pilgrim, Army
VIRIN: 200401-A-QT978-0001M

"This required a lot of leadership," Sherman said. "It required a lot of backbone sort of things like increasing our internet access points, and increasing our network capability, and also being on our toes from a cybersecurity perspective. And we're moving out with that. And this is something we've been very proud of. ... I think this is a gold standard for the government, what we've been able to do here in DOD."

Sherman said the department is looking to the future now for telework. The CVR capability has been extended to June 2021, for instance. 

A building.
DISA Building
The Defense Information Systems Agency complex at Fort Meade, Md., opened in April 2011.
Photo By: Kevin Headtke
VIRIN: 190815-D-K7053-1001

"We are currently working on a more enduring Office 365-based capability," he said. "CVR is what we call 'impact level two' or IL2. ... We're moving to an IL5 solution. IL2 was fine for where we [are] in telework. But we know we need a more enduring solution that keeps the same functionality of CVR, which allows us to talk to people at IL2, talk to people not on the Department of Defense Information Network."

According to the Defense Information Systems Agency, "impact levels" describe the sensitivity of information to be stored or processed in the cloud and also the potential impact of an event that results in the loss of confidentiality, integrity or availability of that information.

A woman works on a laptop.
Budget Analyst
Anissa Nash, an Army Aviation and Missile Command budget analyst, teleworks from her home near Redstone Arsenal, Ala., June 2, 2020.
Photo By: Courtesy of Army Aviation and Missile Command
VIRIN: 200602-O-AB123-001C

Currently, CVR operates only with impact level 2, or IL2 data. That kind of information includes public or non-critical mission information. Impact level 5, or IL5, information includes higher sensitivity, controlled unclassified information and mission critical information, as well.  

Right now, with CVR users can use their own authorized device, something Sherman called "BYOAD," or "bring your own approved device." That's something that will be considered in the future, as well, he said.

A Marine teleworks from her laptop while sitting at her desk.
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Amanda Martinez, a personal property clerk at Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, Okinawa, Japan, teleworks on her laptop from Camp Foster, Okinawa, April 27, 2020. Martinez, a native from Santa Fe, Mexico, deals with Marines’ personal property when they change duty stations.
Photo By: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brennan Beauton
VIRIN: 200427-M-VV856-1196M

"We're working to bake that into an enduring solution in the run up to June of 21, when we hand the baton off from CVR to the more enduring solution," he said.