The Pentagon’s Platform One goes full-on remote

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The Department of Defense’s Platform One team, a group of software developers based out of the Air Force that builds and secures technology tools across the military, claims it will be the first military office to telework indefinitely as a response to COVID-19.

The team’s more than 180 employees were told on a video conference call that working from home and operating as a distributed team will be the new normal, according to a Medium post from the team.

Platform One has been responding to the coronavirus pandemic as both an organization — keeping employees at home — and in the fight to help others working remotely stay connected and secure by pushing DevSecOps practices in the department’s software development. DevSecOps is a modern development philosophy that shifts security earlier in the software pipeline, speeding up delivery and increasing the soundness of software.

“Our new norm is that all of you can work from anywhere, and frankly, I encourage it,” Rob Slaughter, one of the founders and now director of Platform One, told employees in a Zoom call, according to the Medium post.

Other tech-savvy groups in the government have championed a distributed, remote work model, such as the General Services Administration’s 18F. But Platform One says it is the first federal team to migrate to a fully at-home model due to the coronavirus pandemic. Twitter recently announced that it will also maintain a work-from-anywhere posture.

Platform One office space will still be available — with a cap at 50% capacity — for those looking to get back into an office. But leadership, including Slaughter and Air Force Chief Software Officer Nicolas Chaillan, are encouraging coders to stay home and away from large gatherings to find the most productive way for them to work.

Other parts of the DOD have suggested that working from home is here to stay. DOD CIO Dana Deasy said that the department’s Commercial Virtual Remote Environment — the newly expanded suite of collaboration tools that have supported COVID-19 teleworking — will remain in place for the foreseeable future. The top acquisition officer for the Air Force, Will Roper, has also echoed a similar message, saying that the days of gathering in conference rooms to drone through PowerPoint slides will diminish in favor of more “free-flowing” conference calls.

“Our workforce has really stepped up their game,” Roper previously said.

The Platform One team says it can serve as a pilot program of sorts to test out the fully distributed model of work. One of the major concerns for teleworking has been increased attack surfaces for cyber intruders. Platform One has the advantage of being at the forefront of pushing for DevSecOps and employing cybersecurity specialists that could limit the change for adversaries to probe their networks. The team even built a secure chat platform before DOD’s Commercial Virtual Remote Environment was established.

“It’s all new, but anyone who knows this team, knows that we’re completely fine with new — when it’s purposeful and when it amplifies our ability to serve the mission,” says Slaughter.

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Air Force, coronavirus, Dana Deasy, DevSecOps, Nicolas Chaillan, Platform One, software, telework
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