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Workforce

Pandemic upends agency continuity plans

The work-from-home model the pandemic imposed on federal agencies has IT leaders rethinking continuity planning models.

Traditional operational continuity planning focuses on moving workers to an alternate site, Department of Homeland Security acting CIO Beth Cappello said during a CyberScoop "Security a Remote Workforce" webinar. "We didn't plan on working in isolation."

As the pandemic response began, Capello said DHS had solid cloud infrastructure and virtual private networks that its components leveraged. However, she said, components used it differently to get their operations up and running in the pandemic. "It will be interesting to see and examine when this is over," she said.

Big events, she said, always brings more probes by bad actors, particularly phishing emails, said Capello. The pandemic is no different, she said, adding that her IT operations staff worked to get the word out to users on what to look for.

"Long term, we need to open the aperture on continuity planning to think about a circumstance like this with people working remotely for a longer time, as well as what security will look like," she said.

"Will have to spend more than a little time re-engineering business processing," said Capello, such as how to get a person a common access card if they can't come to a physical location to get it. That process, and others like it, have to be re-thought for a calamity such as a pandemic that might go in fits and starts into the future, according to Capello.

The Federal Communications Commission moved quickly to implement Microsoft Teams to get its workforce remote capabilities, according to agency CIO Francisco Salguero.

As its workforce moved to remote access, the FCC, like many agencies and companies, realized its telephone and messaging systems that were designed for a more centralized workforce were swamped.

The agency had virtual desktops, available to employees before the pandemic, but the lockdown highlighted the need to move more quickly to the cloud. The pandemic showed that the FCC needed to make more data-intensive applications, such as its geographic information systems, more easily available to its workforce.

Reader comments

Tue, May 26, 2020 J.D.

So far working from home as worked out for me. Didn't think I could do it, but I can.

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2020 Digital Almanac

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