Pentagon returns to maximum telework as Omicron cases rise

Spc. Francisco Solís of the Puerto Rico National Guard takes the COVID-19 vials out of the refrigerator to defrost them before distribution in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Dec. 2, 2021. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Kevin Torres Figueroa)

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The Department of Defense‘s headquarters is returning to maximum telework as COVID-19 cases rise in the Washington, D.C., region.

The order, from Pentagon’s director of administration and management, is in effect through at least the end of January 2022, according to a press release. New policy requires as few employees and visitors to be in the building as possible and for workers to utilize remote tools to complete their work where possible.

The notice comes as DOD is implementing a new suite of virtual tools dubbed DOD365, a higher security version of Microsoft’s Office 365 designed to give email, Teams and other collaboration functions to both in-office and remote workers.

“Virtual meetings or seating with physical distancing will be maximized,” the memo states.

Organizations within the Pentagon are expected to maintain occupancy rates at less than 40% of normal occupancy, subject to certain exceptions, according to the memo.

Many civilians and uniformed personnel have already been migrated to DOD365, or a service branch equivalent like Army365 or the Navy’s Flank Speed. It’s unclear how many Pentagon staff have access to the new systems.

At the outset of the Pandemic, DOD stood up within weeks a virtual set of collaboration tools called the Commercial Virtual Remote environment that served as a stop-gap measure for employees to use while working remotely. CVR was terminated in summer 2021 as DOD transitioned to its long-term telework solution.

Washington, D.C., has averaged more than 2,000 cases of COVID-19 per day over the last seven days, according to data from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The spike in cases have been driven by the Omicron variant of COVID-19 that is highly transmissible.

A DOD spokesperson said: “During the past two years the DoD CIO led the effort with the military services, joint staff, combatant commands, and defense agencies and field activities, to include industry partners, to aggressively develop, implement and field much needed capabilities.”

“We are confident the DOD workforce has what it needs to meet mission requirements now and have set the conditions to meet future needs,” they added.

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COVID-19, DOD365, telework
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