GSA issues laptops to kick off teleworking plan

Telework opens a contentious issue about employees’ accessing official agency networks via their own computers, the General Services Administration’s chief information officer said today.

Casey Coleman said GSA is issuing employees government-owned laptop computers as an initial step in reaching Administrator Lurita Doan’s goal of having 50 percent of the agency’s employees teleworking by 2010.

“We have a lot of control over that environment,” Coleman said after a speech at a luncheon hosted by the American Council for Technology/Industry Advisory Council.

“People don’t like carrying a laptop home,” she said. The complaint "is what it is, and we need to balance the concerns.”

When employees use personal computers, Coleman said, GSA can’t control them. That has forced the agency to look at how to protect its network from malware and malicious viruses, she said.

GSA now must consider endpoint, network and data security, she said. GSA has encrypted most of its employees’ mobile devices, such as BlackBerrys, and it’s controlling network access points, walling off parts of its network unless the user is granted access.

“We want to make sure only people who need access can have access to the systems and databases when they need them,” Coleman said. She said in her speech that she didn’t want to end up on the front page of the Washington Post because of a security breach.

These concerns leave GSA trying to balance network security and employee productivity, she said.

As for the teleworking goal, Coleman said GSA’s aim is having 20 percent of employees eligible for telework in 2008, 40 percent in 2009 and 50 percent in 2010.

Coleman said teleworking is defined as working from home once a week.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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