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Washington, DC - The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), under guidance from Director Kay Coles James, conducted the second forum for Federal specialists to address agency authorities if the Federal Government must close and / or initiate their continuity of operations plans. The session highlighted the inherent responsibility of agency heads to designate emergency personnel and the utilization of telework during emergencies. "The President has made it clear that, while safety is of the utmost concern, the greatest Government on earth will not be brought to a halt in the face of a threat," stated James. "Each agency plays a fundamental role in ensuring this, and the designation of emergency personnel is key to ensuring agencies are able to fulfill their critical missions."
The Federal Government may, in extreme conditions, close all or some of its agencies as a result of certain events (i.e. weather, protests, terrorism) that prevent employees from physically reaching their official duty stations. It is the philosophy of Director James to ensure critical training is provided so the safety of the Federal workforce is not compromised and the functionality of the Government remains intact. The key to securing the Government's ability to carry out basic agency functions during these events is advance planning and preparation, including the designation of emergency personnel.
Director James released a memorandum for agencies January 23, 2004, which pointed out the flexibility agencies have to make these designations. These decisions contribute substantially to an agency's ability to sustain its operations as needed during periods of closure. The forum focused on such personnel designations, as well as on transportation and communications issues.
The ability to telework is very important in times of emergency situations. Participating agencies at today's forum were made aware of the need to make telework a part of their continuity of operations planning. Federal agencies were urged to consider a full range of possibilities about how and where their work is accomplished through the use of alternative worksites such as telecenters and employees' homes.
James stated, "In the last two years, the Federal Government has significantly improved the level of emergency preparedness. Plans are in place to ensure continuity of operations in the event of an emergency. Participating agencies understand their responsibility to be prepared and they know what steps they can make right now to adequately staff their essential operations should an emergency arise."
Around 120 individuals attended today's forum representing 50 departments and agencies including personnel from the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of State. Combined with the earlier forum, approximately 250 individuals from 75 agencies have attended the forums. A list of participating agencies and a copy of Director James' January 23, 2004 memorandum follows this release.
Our mission is to Recruit, Retain and Honor a World-Class Workforce to Serve the American People. OPM supports U.S. agencies with personnel services and policy leadership including staffing tools, guidance on labor-management relations and programs to improve work force performance.