DOD switches off its temporary teleworking platform used by millions

Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Natalia Murillo, a native of San Diego, participates in a video conference with Navy Public Affairs Support Element (NPASE) West during a drill weekend in May. (U.S. Navy / Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Natalia Murillo)

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The Department of Defense will shut down its Commerical Virtual Remote (CVR) environment at midnight Tuesday, marking the transition to a higher security, long-term office productivity environment that employees will use in the office and at home.

Creating CVR was a feat by government standards, with millions of users brought online in a matter of weeks when the pandemic first sent much of the workforce home in March 2020. CVR gave users access to Microsoft Teams and other basic collaboration tools. It was a telework environment born of necessity, and is now being replaced by a more robust version of Office 365 dubbed “DOD365.”

The new platform offers much of the same capabilities as CVR with the ability to do work up to impact level five (IL 5), a jump up from CVR’s max of IL 2 data, and store documents in the OneDrive cloud.

“The rapid stand up of Commercial Virtual Remote (CVR) marked the turning point to the way DoD approaches IT challenges and showed the value of the close working relationships that have been established over the last few years,” John Sherman, acting CIO, told FedScoop in a statement.

At its hight, CVR had nearly 1.5 million users chatting, video calling and sharing documents on the system across the military. It brought novel capabilities to the DOD workforce, which until 2020 rarely could work from outside of military installations. Since early 2021 DOD has been onboarding users on to DOD365 to try and smooth the transition. It’s unclear how many users are on the envionrment now. DOD also recently expanded the number of types of devices that can access the platform.

Part of what got CVR up and running so fast was a telework task force of military department CIOs that convened to surge resources to CVR. The task force was led by then-CIO Dana Deasy and met daily at the onset of the pandemic, the DOD said at the time.

A small office within the DOD CIO’s office, the Cloud Computing Program Office, worked “24 hours a day, seven days a week” in the first two months to get the cloud space needed to run the environment.

“It is the Thursday that never ended because it was the day that never ended for us,” she said in December, retelling the story of March for the first time.

CVR was not without its limitation. Only IL 2 work could be done on the system and its capabilities were rudimentary compared to the full suite of tools many private sector companies offer. It also operated on a security waiver in order to be stood up so fast.

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Commercial Virtual Remote, Dana Deasy, DOD365, john sherman, Microsoft Office 365
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