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Department of Defense and Telework: The Future of Remote Work in the Government

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In late October 2020, John Sherman—principal deputy CIO of the Department of Defense (DOD)—shared the department’s plans to extend telework allowance. The ability for government employees to work remotely has been a challenge for a long time. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, government agencies were faced with the inevitable decision to furlough employees or deploy remote work technology.

The DOD is now fast-tracking the refinement of its telework tool, known as the Commercial Virtual Remote (CVR), to become a permanent capability by summer of 2021. CVR is the DOD’s version of Microsoft Teams. It has enhanced security features to accommodate different levels of information classification and access.

CVR has a cloud security rated for Impact Level 2. This supports telework but is insufficient for long-term use. The upgraded version will have the same functions but upgrade the system to an Impact Level 5. An updated system will also boast better communication between users with different levels of access or even outside the information network. It also allows users to BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices), as long as they meet approved specifications.

Telework compatible tools have risen to the forefront as a high priority for all businesses. The reality that, at any time, a huge portion of the workforce would need to function remotely has accelerated progress toward solutions that work. 

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Remote Work in the U.S. Government

There are a host of issues with remote work in the government, many of which relate to cybersecurity and secure devices. The work done by employees is critical for national security, economies and more. As it should be, cybersecurity standards in governmental organizations are extraordinarily high. 

Remote work for the U.S. government faces challenges in that many users and decision-makers are involved with selecting technology:

  1. Field operators must deal with tactical problems. Requesting solutions and aligning with a chain of command can make new technology and remote work difficult to implement.
  2. Division leaders often make strategic, operational decisions that relate to technology. These then have to be disseminated and carried out on the ground and on every level of the organization.
  3. Engineers within requirement and acquisition groups make large-scale decisions about the use of technology and approved technology.

 

The unique challenges within each of those groups have presented a barrier to large-scale implementation of virtual environments or remote work opportunities for government or military employees.

Telework in Government Agencies

Standards for telework in government agencies have historically been that around 10% of employees would have available hardware or equipment to work remotely. The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the insufficiency of those provisions. 

Predictably, the DOD and other government agencies have launched audits of their current systems to better identify and define the shortfalls. Solutions like the permanent upgrades to CVR are being deployed throughout departments.

This is a positive step in the right direction, as the coronavirus crisis is not the first and won’t be the last time that employees can’t come into work. As many organizations have found, there can be great cost-savings and increased productivity when teams can work from home. 

But, of course, there is no greater opportunity for risk than among teams who work at high security clearances or deal with sensitive information.

 


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Attila Security: Cybersecurity for the Government and Military

Unlike the heightened security required by any company that deals with medical data, financial data or sensitive information, governments require a higher standard of cybersecurity. With so much at risk, it makes sense that new capabilities are being adopted only after rigorous testing.

In the past, we’ve written about why VDI is the future of remote work for the government, and we are seeing our predictions about using technology like this ringing true with current news.

As a leading supplier of cybersecurity products, Attila understands what government agencies face and what they really need. The combination of secure hardware VPN with a virtual desktop infrastructure provides the right environment and safety measures for remote work that can be scaled quickly. 

A virtualized environment is fast, easy and simple to apply to government supplied or personal devices. End users don’t need extensive training or technical knowledge. In a matter of hours, thousands of desktop instances can be set up and functioning. 

Then, the hardware VPN ensures the ultimate security, only allowing traffic over secure and encrypted channels. This is a NIAP approved solution that functions at an elite level by applying a simple and effective concept.

 

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