Officials from the Marine Corps (USMC) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) credited laying the mobility groundwork and hosting remote work drills, respectively, for helping the agencies prepare workers for the telework transition during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Naturally with Marine Corps, we tend to be pretty agile or responsive when it comes to new and unusual things and unexpected circumstances,” USMC Compliance Branch Deputy Chief Ray Letteer said at an August 13 ATARC event. “We tend to be very mobile, deployable, transporting ourselves to a lot of various destinations at a moment’s notice.”

At USMC, preparation for COVID-19 began early. Officials directed individuals to start working on virtual environments immediately to see how they could adapt for the telework environment, but USMC had also been working on mobile updates prior to the pandemic.

“Surprisingly, because of our planned network approaches and updates, we accidentally fell into success,” Letteer admitted. “If you were planning for expansion and you were planning for more of a distributed work environment, you’re probably in a better alignment for this than those that did not,” he added.

Past mobility efforts at USMC, Letteer continued, yielded great success for the agency. According to Letteer, USMC “never had any VPN [virtual private network] issues.” The mobile work infrastructure is built in such a way, he explained, that its been robust enough to respond to the needs of the workforce.

At NRC, CISO Jonathan Feibus said that employees were also largely ready for the maximum telework transition when it hit. Nearly all employees already had laptops to enable telework and the agency held remote work drills as soon as COVID-19 made headlines in the U.S. earlier this year.

“We knew we were going to be coming up to this mandatory telework time,” he said. “We weren’t sure how long it was going to last. So, we thought this would be a great time to do a couple of tests.”

Feibus described how the agency set up its cafeteria to walk employees through how to sign on remotely and check in with each employee to ensure that they had all the equipment they needed to work from home.

Then, NRC conducted drills where employees were asked to work remotely before the orders became official so that Feibus and his team could make network adjustments to accommodate everyone.

“We quickly made an audible and called our carrier and asked to increase our bandwidth, so by the time everyone did make it home on March 16, we had bandwidth reallocation well underway,” Feibus said.

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Katie Malone
Katie Malone
Katie Malone is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.