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Washington, D.C. -- The U.S. Office of Personnel Management told Congress that ongoing threats of terrorist attacks on American soil have accentuated the need for federal agencies to adopt telework contingencies for employees who may become displaced from their offices during an emergency. Telework contingencies would help ensure employees can provide uninterrupted service from their homes or other alternate sites.
OPM Associate Director Marta Brito Perez told Members of the House Committee on Government Reform that disruptions to operations after the September 11 attacks brought into focus the need for alternate work sites. She added that making telework an everyday business reality would ease the transition into emergency operations, as well as help agencies recruit and retain talented people.
"While you, Chairman Davis, and other members of Congress have long recognized the benefits of telework in reducing traffic congestion and air pollution, in addition to its positive impact on employee morale and retention, we have all come to recognize the important role telework plays in an agency's ability to continue to perform mission-critical work in times of crisis or calamity," said Perez.
The hearing was convened by Congressman Tom Davis (VA) to review the progress of federal agencies over the past 12 months in developing continuity of operations plans (COOP), which would include a telework component. These plans would be available for implementation during man-made or natural disasters.
Perez said OPM is partnering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the General Services Administration (GSA) on the telework component of agency COOP plans.
OPM Acting Director Dan G. Blair welcomed approximately 80 telework coordinators from more than 50 agencies to an April meeting co-sponsored with GSA. OPM and GSA co-host the quarterly forums to advance the Bush Administration's telework initiative. More than 75 representatives from 52 federal agencies attended the January 2005 forum.
OPM has been at the forefront of the telework issue. In June 2001, three months before the terrorist attacks, the agency issued a special study on telework success stories in federal agencies. Following the terrorist attacks, and with consistent support from Capitol Hill, most notably from Chairman Davis, Maine Senator Susan Collins and Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf, OPM has helped turned a moderate-priority program into timely and important grist at meetings involving national security and continuity of government services.
OPM also conducts an annual survey to gauge agencies' progress in planning and implementing telework arrangements for employees whose jobs are conducive to working offsite at least one day each week.
Within the national security arena, OPM also has led efforts to help agencies identify fraudulent academic qualifications presented by job applicants. In seminars in Washington and across the country, OPM has educated hundreds of program and hiring officials to the phenomenon of job applicants presenting bogus college degrees that have been purchased and earned through little or no work. Misrepresentation of qualifications by prospective hires, says OPM, could imperil national security, defense programs and other vital federal operations.
During the hearing, Perez emphasized that telework should be a routine part of each agency's business plan.
"With over 1.8 million non-postal executive branch employees spread across the agencies, we simply must incorporate employee safety with business needs," said Perez. "OPM's goal is to make telework an integral part of agency operations, rather than a ‘new' or ‘special' program."
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.