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Washington, DC - The Office of Personnel Management today conducted a forum for 140 specialists to address each agency's authorities upon closure of the Federal Government. The session focused, in particular, on the authority of agency heads to designate emergency personnel. Commenting on the forum James stated, "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. 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 missions."
The Federal Government must, in extreme conditions, close all or some of its agencies as a result of certain events (i.e. weather, protests, terrorist incidents) that prevent employees from physically reaching their official duty stations. The key to ensuring that the government maintains its ability to carry out basic, necessary agency functions in the face of such events is advance planning and preparation, including the designation of emergency personnel.
Director James released a memorandum for agencies September 18, 2003, 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. Today's 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 that 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."
A list of participating agencies and a copy of Director James' September 18 memorandum follows this release.
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