As the novel coronavirus continues to spread across the country, it has little regard for who it infects and its implications for their work and livelihood. The way many people work has been changed, extending from small businesses to national defense. The U.S. Army has recognized this and is taking steps to operate remotely better. Throughout the next month, the Army will be rolling out a capability that allows employees to access classified and sensitive information online.
Virtual Desktops for those in the Contiguous U.S.
Citing concerns about further shutdown and spread, military officials have been actively adapting operations. This is easier said than done, especially with the security concerns of an organization like the Army. Users will be able to view sensitive information from remote locations, including at home. The majority of computers used, the Army says, will be virtual desktops with no ability to store data on the device. Additional capabilities may be included to allow some users to work offline.
“Based on location, the service will likely work better for [contiguous United States] users; it is our intention to test performance with [outside contiguous United States] users before issuing this as an offering [outside the contiguous United States],” said Maj. Gen. Maria Barrett.
Remote Capability Became A Higher Priority with COVID-19
This sort of remote capability marks a speedy overhaul for the Army. Remote capabilities were in development before the pandemic, but the sudden urgency for its rollout couldn’t have been predicted. Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford, Army Chief Information Officer, said they were “probably a year and a half” away from rolling out the online system. Like many developments in technology these days, timelines have been sped up.
USAF Working Remotely Too
The Army isn’t the first branch of the military to go remote. In April, the Air Force took advantage of its Advanced Battle Management System which allows them to connect aircraft, computers, satellites, etc. securely) for a similar online transition. While the Army wasn’t afforded the same virtual infrastructure at the start of the pandemic, they have made several adjustments. The branch increased network access and has had around 800,000 telework enabled employees.
Defense Needs Require Defense Solutions
Like the Army, the Air Force’s remote operations will rely on online computers without local storage. Both branches will supply employees with specific computers with their respective operating systems. Jim Purtilo, associate professor of computer science at the University of Maryland, told ClearanceJobs in May that he expects vendors to develop solutions specific to these kinds of deployments eventually. Security is a priority, and while there is always a threat of hackers, working remotely adds additional factors to control.
The New Normal
Working from home could very well become the new normal for U.S. service men and women. Over the next month, the Army will begin to onboard its first 500 users and plans to have 2,000 eventually. The current jump to remote learning is only the first of its kind for the Army, and practical advancements to working at home can be expected. For those already working from home, the Army’s development of remote operations should signal a more advanced (and hopefully smoother) virtual world in the coming months.