The COVID-19 pandemic has compelled companies involved with intelligence systems and operations to rethink their work approaches to everything from hiring to clearances. Their need to continue to support the intelligence community has led them to new methods of operations that likely will remain in their portfolios long after the virus has passed into history.
Being forced to telework by the pandemic is a blessing in disguise to the U.S. military intelligence community, say its leaders. Processes that have been fermenting as ideas for years are being embraced enthusiastically, and what had been considered half-baked now is the way of the future as the community deals with new threats and methods of operations.
The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) has changed its approach to data services from an exclusively high-level activity to one at the lowest level. In moving from a centralized approach to a decentralized one, the agency has taken the same course as an army moving data from the command center down to the individual soldier in the foxhole.
In response to the pandemic, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has incorporated changes into its operations that are likely to remain in place after the virus has passed into memory. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the agency to adopt new procedures that have shown their worth for efficiency and employee quality of life.
Some of these measures, such as telework, already were in place to a limited degree. Others, such as virtual meetings, became the rule rather than the exception that they were originally. Other changes made of necessity have been adopted for regular use.
In response to the teleworking boom resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) dramatically increased network capacity, expanded access to virtual private networks and adopted new online collaboration tools, allowing thousands of Defense Department personnel to safely and securely work from home.
Addressing the audience tuning into the Army’s 2020 Signal Conference, which is sponsored by AFCEA and streamed online, Vice Adm. Nancy Norton, USN, the agency’s director, reported that the agency never shut down and never stopped working during the ongoing pandemic.
The U.S. Army will likely see permanent, technology-enabled changes to tactics, techniques and procedures following the COVID-19 pandemic, says Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford, the service’s retiring chief information officer and G-6.
In a keynote address on the first day of the virtual Army Signal Conference, hosted by AFCEA, the general noted that the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, led to a host of changes to tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs), as well as legislation and “ways of doing business.” Many of those changes remain in place.
As people around the world practice self-isolation in an effort to reduce exposure and spreading of the COVID-19 virus, the need to maintain a strong cybersecurity posture arguably has never been higher. Millions of people have shifted their daily lives to an environment relying on telework, distance learning, Internet-enabled social engagement, streaming news and entertainment and other activities.
This “new normal” is facilitated by the robust capabilities of the Internet. Yet it presents a significant cyber risk. During the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve seen bad actors stepping up their game with increased incidents of phishing, disinformation, watering hole attacks and other criminal activity.
The free DCO Connect app allows U.S. Defense Department personnel and contractors to host and attend meetings from Android devices and tablets. The mobile initiative is an extension of the existing Defense Connect Online (DCO) program, launched in 2007 by Carahsoft Technology Corporation and Adobe to provide Adobe Connect Web conferencing and Cisco XMPP solutions. Currently, more than 650,000 users across the Defense Department use the system, which supports an average of 40 million Web conferencing minutes and 30 million chat messages per month.
The U.S. Defense Department has revamped its Telework Program for the civilian work force. Leaders at each Defense Department component now are required to promote telework within their organizations and to take all possible steps to overcome artificial barriers to program implementation. In addition, they must authorize telework for the maximum number of positions without compromising mission readiness and integrate telework into continuity-of-operations activities. These alterations to the former telework policy evolved out of the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010.
The hard-hitting storms that beleaguered parts of the United States this year taught the East Coast a valuable lesson-sometimes you just can't get to work. But with immovable deadlines tasks still must be accomplished. One way offices can continue to function with personnel in disparate locations (assuming they all have power) is by storing documents in locations other than organizations' computer drives. Using the Internet as a storage device enables people to continue to move work forward, even if they can't get out the front door.