Rear Adm. Kathleen M. Creighton responded to questions in late July.
CHIPS: Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis, the Department of the Navy has been successful in expanding capabilities for users to remotely access the DON enterprise network. It’s a good news story because the Navy used it an opportunity to accelerate network modernization. Can you talk about how the Navy did it in such a short amount of time?
Rear Adm. Creighton: The Navy had always had a reasonable level of capacity for remote and mobile work. At any time before COVID-19 hit, we may have had up to 5% of the force on scheduled telework or on travel and needing to connect while out of the office. COVID-19 forced us to increase capacity across the board in very short order. The Navy quickly ordered more of the licenses needed for remote work, ordered increased network bandwidth from the Defense Information Systems Agency, built out more back-end infrastructure to support remote connections, and purchased more mobile end-user devices, like laptops, mobile phones, and iPads. All of these things were expedited to provide the greater capacity while maintaining our cybersecurity posture.
CHIPS: In many ways, the expansion of telework capabilities and collaboration tools so rapidly demonstrates the agility and professionalism of the Navy’s IT Team and DON. What are your thoughts?
Rear Adm. Creighton: It certainly does, and it really demonstrates what’s possible when a group comes together for a common purpose. We leaned heavily on a variety of partnerships across the Navy, across the Navy-Marine Corps Team, and elsewhere within the DoD. We also got great cooperation from our industry partners, who really took an aggressive approach towards helping the Navy.
CHIPS: Since you appeared on Government Matters in April, you said the Navy had allowed access for about 150,000 teleworkers. Has this number gone up? Have other capabilities been added since then?
Rear Adm. Creighton: By April, the Navy had surged capacity to handle about 150K people performing remote work through a variety of methods. While we increased capacity at a slightly slower pace after the initial surge, we have continued to grow capacity through further infrastructure upgrades, increased network throughput, and a few other means to get our remote work capacity numbers even higher.
CHIPS: The Navy is rolling out MS Office 365. Do you have any feedback about how it is going? Can you discuss the implementation plan?
Rear Adm. Creighton: I am very pleased with the progress being made in rolling out Microsoft Office 365 to the Navy enterprise. This year, there is a major push to maximize the number of users we will migrate to this cloud-based software offering. We are implementing by command, moving hundreds of users each work night, and so far the results have been very, very good. We are targeting 160K migrated users by the end of this fiscal year.
CHIPS: The deployment of the Commercial Virtual Remote (CVR), Microsoft Teams has been another success, but the Navy’s intent is that it will be temporary. Is the Navy reevaluating any of the IT decisions it has made since so many of the temporary fixes are a success?
Rear Adm. Creighton: The CVR, Microsoft Teams environment was established by DoD for all the Services and DoD gencies. CVR gave us new abilities to collaborate through voice, video, and chat at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, which is exactly what we needed. I use CVR every day, and so does everyone on my staff, and so do all of the people with whom I collaborate on a daily basis. The CVR environment was always intended to be temporary, for a variety of good reasons. After CVR has been shut down, the Navy will shift to using the Office 365 version of Teams for collaboration.
CHIPS: Can you discuss the different aspects of the Navy Telework Capabilities infographic that your office assembled and distributed? (Shown at right.)
Rear Adm. Creighton: N2N6 developed the Telework Capabilities infographic to be a “one-stop shopping” tool for users to discover the options available to help them get their jobs done while working remotely. The options are organized in the graphic by the type of information a user needs to access – either unclassified information or controlled unclassified information. Within these two categories, the available resources for teleworking are organized by what the user has: no NMCI asset or common access card (CAC); a DoD asset; or a CAC reader only. The infographic also includes useful links.
CHIPS: Do you think the pandemic has changed the Navy’s long-term IT modernization strategy?
Rear Adm. Creighton: COVID-19 has certainly awakened the Navy to the importance of telework, and how adequate telework capacity and ubiquitous collaboration capabilities should be part of our long-term modernization strategy. The crisis has also accelerated our short-term modernization plans, namely our plans to migrate to Microsoft 365 and take advantage of its capabilities to include Teams.
CHIPS: In your interview with Government Matters you talked about the benefits of teleworking. What do you like about telework?
Rear Adm. Creighton: There are some disadvantages to remote work but there are also some real advantages and some things to really like about it. It’s safer for all of us, which is even more important as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow. Telework cuts down on traffic, and lets people use commuting time for work or personal time. CVR Teams has helped groups collaborate on short notice, mimicking the around-the-table interaction at the office while adding the ability to share documents and chat while listening to the meeting. With remote connectivity and CVR, we have remained productive while working away from our normal spaces.
CHIPS: Is there anything else you would like to discuss?
Rear Adm. Creighton: I’d just like to reiterate how important teamwork has been to our success in quickly adapting to the telework demands imposed by the COVID-19 crisis. This truly was a team effort, and I look forward to partnering closely with the same group of stakeholders to rapidly modernize the Navy’s information technology platform while maintaining our cybersecurity posture.