DISA Boosts Telework Connections in Response to Pandemic

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (July 15, 2020) -- The Defense Information Systems Agency plans for a lot of different situations to provide network capability to the joint force and to protect that capability. A pandemic was not in DISA's strategic plan, but the coronavirus hasn't stopped the agency from carrying out its mission or doing additional work to keep the rest of the department working, DISA's director said.

"Since March, like the rest of the Department of Defense, we've been supporting the whole-of-government response to COVID-19," Navy Vice Adm. Nancy Norton said during a keynote address to the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association today. "At DISA and Joint Force Headquarters Department of Defense Information Networks, I am proud to say, we have never shut down and we have never stopped working since this pandemic began."

Norton said the DISA and JFHQ/DODIN team has helped to orchestrate an exponential increase in networking capacity to help department employees continue to operate in a telework environment. This includes new circuits, increased bandwidth and increased conference call lines, she said.

Since March, DISA has provisioned circuits that increase network capacity by nearly 500 gigabits per second, Norton said. Since the start of the pandemic, 63 new circuits were added, and 39 more are pending activation. Some of those circuits supported the hospital ships USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy while they provided medical support in New York City and Los Angeles, the admiral said.

DISA increased the Army's virtual private network access and reliability by nearly 300%, and provided significantly increased capability to the Air Force as well, Norton said. For joint partners, she added, DISA efforts increased VPN access by more than 1,000%, to about 122,000 telework connections a day.

The increased capabilities for mobile work, she said, are something that DISA is looking to maintain even after the COVID-19 crisis subsides.

"For years, we have been moving toward a more mobile, capable workforce, where data are accessible anywhere and at any time," she said. "Together with our mission partners, we are capturing the processes and lessons learned for what we do for our mission partners, and we want many of these force-strengthening changes to be enduring."