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USCG rolls out virtual collaboration app called CVR Teams

By CWO Allyson E.T. Conroy

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As the country moves into the second month of virtual living, organizations around the globe have reconstructed how they do business. The Coast Guard has also taken this opportunity to update virtual workspace capability for members who are able to telework.

Members can now use Commercial Virtual Remote (CVR) Teams – the Department of Defense’s Microsoft Teams. CVR can help you conduct videoconferences and collaborate on documents at the FOUO level (such as policy changes, contracts, and regulatory or adjudicative actions).

“We have more than 4,000 members around the country working on our virtual platforms,” said CDR Jessica Behera, lead for the IT and teleworking group for the Coast Guard’s COVID-19 response. “This technology allows Coast Guard members working in a virtual office space to collaborate, chat, have voice conversations, and video chat in a more secure environment. This helps to provide more of an office-setting feel, while still maintaining social distance.”

The service announced this new capability April 24 in ALCOAST 152/20 (CAC enabled). 

There are a couple of key points to keep in mind:

  1. While CVR Teams may be more secure than other third-party virtual meeting platforms, users still need to be mindful of operational security. Do NOT download FOUO/CUI/PII documents onto your personal computers or mobile devices to share on CVR Teams.
  2. Be sure that all official documentation is created and maintained on the Coast Guard network. Documents should not be edited in the CVR Teams application.

“We understand the importance for people to interact and have the opportunity to collaborate on projects,” CDR Behera said. “Emails and phone calls only go so far with human interaction. The Coast Guard wanted to better support our workforce and provide a platform to conduct regular business. We partnered with our Sister Services for CVR Teams.”

How do you get set up? Every Coast Guard member should have received a CVR Teams welcome and activation email in their uscg.mil account. From there you can go to the user guide to help you with set up. You should set up your account while connected to the Coast Guard network – don’t forget your user name and password – and get the links prior to setting up your mobile device. As you set up your CVR Teams account, you are able to use personal email such as gmail, yahoo, etc., to set up Microsoft Authenticator on your personal devices. Be aware there will be a need for two-way authentication, similar to what people may already see with some social media platforms.

Mobile devices can be set up by downloading the Microsoft Teams app from your device’s app store. CVR Teams is meant for use on your personal computer, tablet, or smartphone. You can also use CVR Teams on your government-issued smart phone, tablet, or laptop, so long as you are not connected to the Coast Guard network. If you do decide to use the audio and video aspects of CVR Teams on your Coast Guard-issued laptop, extra technical assistance may be required in order to use the camera and microphone.

 “We encourage our members to use this technology to better collaborate for regular workspace meetings, town halls, and one-on-one discussions while we maintain social distancing,” Behera said.

CVR Teams will be used in place of all other external third-party virtual collaboration applications which, beginning May 1st, will be prohibited for use to conduct Coast Guard business except for telemedicine capabilities as outlined in ALCOAST 096/20 (CAC required) or with an approved Special Use Information Technology (SUIT) request for “Zoom for Government.”

While we all do our part during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Coast Guard knows the importance of maintaining the ability to talk and connect with our teams, our crews, and our people to maintain a sense of normalcy. The Service hopes this new capability helps maintain these connections, while at the same time maintaining an opportunity for “in-person” meeting times.

Though CVR Teams is available during the COVID-19 emergency, the Coast Guard is developing its own version of CG Teams as part of O365 Cloud Office Solution and the greater Coast Guard technology revolution effort. For more information on CVR Teams see ALCOAST 152/20 or visit CG-6’s telework website.