FAA administrator instructs employees to avoid agency facilities

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The Federal Aviation Administration is asking employees not to report to agency facilities unless an emergency or mission-critical function requires them to be on-site.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson made the announcement in a March 19 all-staff email reviewed by FCW.

Dickson is already undergoing a seven-day self-quarantine under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols after a March 11 Capitol Hill interaction with Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Dickson himself has not been tested, he told employees, because of a lack of symptoms. However, several FAA employees have tested positive for COVID-19, including one in the Air Traffic Organization Program Management Office in the agency's Washington, D.C., headquarters.

Other FAA employees, including multiple air traffic controllers stationed at airports across the country, have also contracted COVID-19. FAA towers in Chicago and Las Vegas have been closed as a result, with work shifted to backup sites.

"This message is to emphasize in the strongest terms that, until further notice, everybody in the FAA is encouraged to aggressively maximize telework flexibilities and avoid physical presence at FAA facilities unless your physical presence is necessary to accomplish your work duties," Dickson told employees March 19.

Dickson urged managers to grant temporary telework eligibility to staff that are not otherwise afforded the opportunity to telework without telework agreements. FAA is also relaxing typical telework rules by permitting employees to work remotely alongside dependent children or elderly needing care. That flexibility was spelled out in a March 7 Office of Personnel Management memo.

"Managers must ensure employees always have a sufficient amount of work to perform throughout the workday," Dickson wrote. "An employee performing telework who does not have enough work must notify his or her supervisor to discuss appropriate options."

Dickson said the agency is "making every effort" to guarantee the readiness of IT infrastructure to support high-volume telework.

Earlier this week the FAA took initial steps to encourage telework, but a March 17 statement focused on employees who were already telework-eligible. While such employees were urged to telework "to the maximum extent possible," the statement noted that "[m]any employees perform critical functions that cannot be handled remotely. In those instances, we are employing social distancing measures and increasing the cleaning of workspaces to reduce risk of exposure."

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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