For Some, Teleworking May Continue as Post-COVID-19 Option

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (May 21, 2020) -- In April, the Defense Department's chief information officer said some of the tools and infrastructure put in place to support the rise of telework due to COVID-19 might remain after the pandemic subsides. Now, department leaders say, it is possible telework itself may live on.

"We've learned a lot of lessons about the ability to telework, and how we keep our productivity up," Matthew Donovan, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said during a briefing today at the Pentagon.

"I think moving forward ... as we step through a phased approach on reopening, ... we're going to continue to maximize the teleworking. We've made a lot of progress with making sure that the network capacities are available and people have access to the materials and documents that they need from a teleworking location."

Also included in discussion of a military rebound from COVID-19 was the status of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, which has been at port in Guam since late March as a result of the pandemic. The ship is now once again underway, said Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs.

"We're proud to say that the USS Teddy Roosevelt is underway today," he said. "The ship left Naval Base Guam and entered the Philippine Sea to conduct carrier qualification flights for the embarked Carrier Air Wing 11. We wish the very best to the Roosevelt and her crew."

Aboard, Roosevelt's crew is practicing better social distancing effort to ensure continued crew health and safety, Hoffman said.

"We're concerned for any additional outbreaks, but we have learned a lot over the last couple months," he added.

As a result, he said, the ship is operating with a reduced crew to ensure additional spacing between crew members. The crew is wearing masks and gloves, and will have increased COVID-19 testing. Additionally, Hoffman said, the ship will have longer dining hours to ensure that fewer individuals are in the dining facilities at the same time.

"There's a bunch of different lessons learned that they've taken and that they're using," he said. "No one is going into this believing that this is the last we've seen of coronavirus. But they're trying to be very diligent and very careful and thoughtful in how they move forward and be very assertive in confronting the virus whenever they see it."

Hoffman said the Roosevelt has no change in its mission -- it will pick up where it left off in late March. The carrier air wing is being recertified, which should take up to two weeks to complete, he added.

"They're recertifying the flight deck, recertifying the crew," Hoffman told reporters. "It's something that happens after a ship has been in port for an extended period of time. At that point, the ship will return to Guam, pick up the remaining crew members who are still quarantined and who are still recovering from COVID. They'll get back on the ship, and then the ship will move out for the rest of its mission, ... the tour that it started earlier this year."