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VA needs 180,000 devices fast

The Department of Veterans Affairs is in need of money to purchase more than 180,000 devices to scale telework and telehealth operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to sources familiar with the matter, the VA's recent supplemental appropriations request calls for 100,000 laptops to support “maximum telework” directives, 30,000 laptops for telehealth operations and 50,000 iPads for veterans to be able to access telehealth. It falls under a $1.2 billion request for the department’s “Information Technology Systems account” to support the “quick shift” to telehealth and social distance working. Overall the VA is requesting $16.6 billion in extra fiscal 2020 funds to ensure it can continue its operations during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Jackson Barnett has the scoop.

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Contractors want to telework, too

Contractors want the same telework capabilities given to federal workers during the pandemic. Agencies have begun sending contract employees home without the authority to telework, and those responsible for nonessential functions may soon be furloughed. Organizations like the Professional Services Council and members of Congress are speaking out on behalf of contractors. PSC, for instance, has called on the Office of Management and Budget to issue comprehensive guidance to all federal acquisition officials allowing maximum telework for contractors. And Sen. Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, sent a letter Wednesday to Defense Secretary Mark Esper urging the Pentagon to issue clear telework and paid leave guidance for employees and contract personnel. The current guidance has “ambiguity that is creating confusion and anxiety,” Warner wrote. “Personnel whose duties and responsibilities do not immediately contribute to a critical national security function would benefit from a clear directive instructing them to work remotely and would make a significant impact for our nation.” Dave Nyczepir has more on the issue.

JADC2 faces delays

The Air Force won't hold data integration demonstrations for the Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) system until at least June, Gen. David Goldfein, chief of staff of the Air Force, said last week. The network-of-networks is compared to a military Internet of Things (IoT). With such complexity in its interconnectivity, the system relies on testing events where drones, ships, fighter jets, and other military weapons and hardware are brought together to integrate the data coming in from sensors. Goldfein stressed that the tests aren't canceled but just postponed until the conditions surrounding the spread of coronavirus allow the service to get back on track. Jackson has more on JADC2.

Census directs Americans to online form during pandemic

The spread of the coronavirus has caused the Census Bureau to suspend in-person operations of the 2020 count by two weeks. Luckily, the bureau has a shiny new online self-response portal that Americans can go to in the meantime. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham “strongly” encourages Americans to respond online “using a desktop computer, laptop, smartphone, or tablet,” or by phone or mail if they prefer, during this lapse in field response operations. As of March 15, more than 5 million Americans have already responded to the census online. The online self-response portal officially went online March 12. In total, the survey has received more than 11 million responses. Billy Mitchell has more on the 2020 count.

DOD puts a stop to video, music streaming on telework networks

Pentagon personnel watching Netflix and listening to music on Pandora were clogging up its telework networks. So, the Department of Defense has banned personnel from using media streaming websites while teleworking as network strain has slowed access to critical enterprise services, such as email. The Joint Force Headquarters-Department of Defense Information Networks — the organization that secures, operates, and defends DOD networks — may soon also block social media websites to “maximize operational bandwidth available for COVID-19 response,” according to a memo obtained by FedScoop. More on the Pentagon's ban.

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