Agencies Directed to Harness Technology for Continued Mission Fulfillment

Published: March 23, 2020

Federal Market AnalysisCoronavirus (COVID-19) PandemicInformation Technology

On Sunday, OMB released a memo to all heads of executive departments and agencies directing them to harness technology to support mission continuity during the coronavirus outbreak.

Key Takeaways:

  • Agencies are expected to use collaboration tools to facilitate ongoing mission support and employee communication during this time of maximized telework.
  • Cybersecurity is of great importance and agencies are directed to use a risk-based approach to meet mission needs.
  • Agencies are being given some leniency in regards to PIV credentials and fingerprinting during this time.

The memo directs agencies to use IT to the extent practical to continue to provide mission services. The guidance is written in the form of nine Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) with corresponding answers.

A summary of the FAQs and answers appears below:

  1. What flexibilities do agencies have to adjust operations to support mission delivery? The guidance directs agencies to the OMB memo from March 17th entitled “Federal Agency Operational Alignment to Slow the Spread of Coronavirus.”
  2. How should agencies confirm that both internal users and the public are positioned to leverage an agency’s digital service offerings? The guidance directs agencies to post on their websites information for federal customers regarding service delivery methods during this time.
  3. What can agencies do to better facilitate personnel productivity in a remote environment? The memo encourages agencies to use collaboration tools and leverage services and technologies across the enterprise.  This may include the need to increase the number of licenses.  
  4. What should agencies do when remote workers need to print and sign forms? The memo directs agencies to leverage digital forms and electronic signatures where possible.
  5. Are agency cybersecurity and privacy requirements still applicable/what are some areas of focus? Security protocols are still applicable and agencies are directed to use a risk-based approach to meet mission needs during this time. Cybersecurity focus areas during remote working include updating VPN components, providing information security guidance to employees, as well as several other areas listed in the memo.
  6. What should agencies consider when managing physical access to facilities for personnel who have not been required to or may be unable to access the facility? The guidance tells agencies to prepare to accommodate personnel who are issued a new PIV credential or that receive a PIV certificate update during their absence from federal facilities.  They may need to implement a number of re-enrollment activities.
  7. Per OPM’s soon to be released guidance, agencies have the ability delay the completion of fingerprinting requirements based on an agency’s risk determination and the need to onboard mission-critical personnel. Am I required to issue new personnel a PIV credential? The guidance allows agencies to make a risk determination and issue an alternative credential “until biometric processing is feasible.”
  8. What should agencies do if they are unable (e.g., low on card stock, unable to complete PIV enrollment activities) to reissue a PIV credential to personnel? Agencies should work with OMB and GSA to resolve any problems issuing PIV credentials. They should also be prepared to issue alternative credentials for physical and logical access.
  9. What should agencies consider when managing access to IT systems for personnel who have not been required to or may be unable to access the network or specific applications? Network accounts and authenticators may expire due to non-use, IT equipment may require enablement, and agencies should prepare for a surge in help desk requests.

On March 17th, OMB requested $45.8B from Congress to help agencies fund areas such as IT enhancements for telework, deep cleaning of facilities, and overtime costs for personnel in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak. Specific agencies such as the DOE, DOT, Education, and DOI look to strengthen IT infrastructures to support the increase of telework. The VA is seeking IT enhancements for additional telehealth capabilities such as purchases of mobile devices, expanded network bandwidth and additional software licenses. Deltek’s analysis of this Emergency FY 2020 Budget Supplemental Request can be found here.