DOD launches task force of CIOs to combat teleworking challenges

Dana Deasy, Department of Defense Chief Information Officer, meets with various Naval Special Warfare commands to learn about their capabilities onboard Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alex Perlman/Released)

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The Department of Defense has set up a “Teleworking Readiness Taskforce” of CIOs and senior IT officials working across the military to address the challenges of having a majority of its workforce teleworking for the first time.

The task force is led by DOD CIO Dana Deasy and meets multiple times per week, a DOD spokesman told FedScoop, as the department works to rapidly respond to an “unprecedented” strain on its networks brought on by a “maximum telework” policy issued in March due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The task force includes CIOs and IT officials across the services, the Defense Information Systems Agency and other DOD components.

“The Task Force is working across the department to ensure we bring the right capabilities at the right time to address any actual or anticipated telework issues that may arise,” Lt. Col. Robert Carver told FedScoop in an email.

Deasy’s office has had to cut access to streaming platforms to free up bandwidth to support the number of employees working from home. While many DOD employees still need to show up in order to continue mission-essential and sensitive work that can’t be done from home, more than 60 percent are working remotely, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said on March 23.

Service-level CIOs say that the collaboration the task force offers is key to addressing common challenges across the department. Army CIO Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford and his deputy, Greg Garcia, both participate in task force meetings “daily,” according to the Army. Meetings focus on global network performance, working with industry and anticipating future telework and broader COVID-19 requirements.

For some parts of the military, the transition to telework has been easier than for others. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, said in March the Air Force can telework “for as long as needed” because the force migrated to the cloud and uses Office 365 platforms. The Air Force’s departing deputy CIO, Bill Marion, said in an interview that the task force is “is really driving change.”

“(Dana Deasy) is really driving decisions that need to be made,” Marion said. “And so we’re certainly leveraging that to make sure we continue to do the right things, but do them even quicker than we were before.”

Crawford echoed Marion’s praise of the collaboration the task force has brought to the military’s teleworking readiness. The task force has worked on a “cloud-enabled collaboration tool” that enables video, audio and chat in a secure environment, Crawford said in an email.

“Collaboration with Joint partners on the policies required to protect a dispersed workforce from cyber threats, given the expanded attack surface, has also been invaluable,” he added.

For a service like the Navy, the need for ongoing modernization has presented a challenge during the pandemic and move to telework, CIO Aaron Weis said.

“The (Department of the Navy) has had the additional challenge that we are in the midst of a network modernization effort, so we have had to scale telework without the benefit of the modernized architecture we are deploying,” Weis said. Parts of the Navy have teleworked before, but never at this scale, he said.

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Aaron Weis, Bill Marion, Bruce Crawford, CIO, Dana Deasy, Department of Defense (DOD), telework
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