Agencies need to tighten telework coordination, GAO says

Potential agency IT infrastructure limitations weren't taken into account before the “unscheduled telework” option for federal employees went into effect earlier this year because agencies failed to coordinate, the Government Accountability Office said in a July 22 report.

The Office of Personnel Management updated its Washington, D.C. area dismissal and closure procedures in March to include unscheduled telework, which allows federal employees to telework when emergencies disrupt commuting.

However, GAO found that OPM and the General Services Administration didn’t work together to reach agency CIOs about capacity gaps before releasing the revised procedures.

“Consequently, officials did not offer any governmentwide guidance on ways to address IT infrastructure limitations or provide direct assistance to agencies regarding the adequacy of their IT infrastructure,” the report said.


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To enhance the use of telework during emergencies, GAO recommended that the director of OPM coordinate with other agencies responsible for policy areas under the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 to provide governmentwide guidance on emergency preparedness.

GAO also recommended OPM consult with those agencies to develop a definition and cohesive set of practices for incorporating telework into emergency and continuity planning and improve its related data collection.

The report also suggested an interagency coordination process be established among OPM, GSA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Federal Protective Service, and the National Archives and Record Administration “to ensure all major areas of agency operations are considered when OPM issues new or updated guidance related to telework during emergencies.”

John Berry, OPM's director, concurred with all the report’s recommendations in a letter sent to GAO.

About the Author

Alyah Khan is a staff writer covering IT policy.

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Reader comments

Mon, Aug 1, 2011 Christina Morrison

I agree with their assessment! We’re not that far away from the winter of 2011-2012, and I hope that agencies work closely with technology providers to address these issues well in advance of next year’s storms.

Mon, Jul 25, 2011

IT is mentioned but not all government agencies combine IT and telecommunications in a single organization. Telecommunications support for Teleworking should be addressed as well.

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