Reps. urge telework

Citing impatience with agencies' reluctance to allow more employees to work remotely, lawmakers are poised to draft legislation to increase the number of federal employees who telework.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State and the Judiciary, has already attached an amendment to the subcommittee's appropriations bill that would deny funding to agencies that don't allow telework. Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, said he advocates crafting similar language that would apply to all government agencies.

Davis pointed to legislation to be introduced by Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) as further evidence of congressional impatience. Danny Davis announced plans to introduce legislation that would create a demonstration project to test teleworking in a fixed environment in order to weigh the overall effectiveness.

Danny Davis is not likely to introduce his bill until next year. He said he is primarily focused on telework's continuity of operations aspect. But the economic impact that results from reduced traffic, building leasing, gasoline consumption and other resources that could see a decline if teleworking takes off on a large scale should also be taken into consideration, he said.

Most of the players in the telework debate support the idea, but concerns over whether lawmakers should take a tough-love approach to delinquent agencies remain.

At a hearing of his committee, Tom Davis suggested the creation of governmentwide definition to clear up confusion about who qualifies to work from a remote location. But Office of Personnel Management Director Kay Coles James said creating a governmentwide eligibility standard is not the answer to the problem, citing the diverse nature of agencies across government.

She also advised against legislating greater agency participation. Danny Davis said that agencies must have the flexibility to determine eligibility on their own.

For example, the Interior Department is an agency in which 74 percent of its workforce is in the field. The nation's parks and wildlife refuges inspire Interior workers, said Scott Cameron, Interior's deputy assistant secretary of performance, accountability, and human resources. "You might have a hard time dragging them out of the marsh," he said.

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