GAO supports need for telework in emergency planning

The United States Government Accountability Office recently submitted a report to a Homeland Security subcommittee about the need for agencies to incorporate telework into their emergency and continuity planning.
The report was made to the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia, which is part of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the U.S. Senate.
The GAO did this study after finding the potential of telework to mitigate the effects of emergencies when historic snowstorms forced thousands of employees to work from their homes in 2010. The GAO found that despite the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, which requires agencies to incorporate telework policies into their continuity of operations plans, there has not been a clear definition of what constitutes incorporating telework into continuity and emergency planning or a cohesive set of practices to achieve the incorporation of telework.
The report said that by coming up with a definition accompanied by a set of practices acknowledging the broad range of operational areas affected by incorporating telework into emergency preparedness, this could help agencies to avoid, identify or address any operational problems.
The GAO recommended three key executive actions to enhance the potential use of telework during emergencies.
"Develop a definition of what constitutes incorporating telework in emergency and continuity plans and a cohesive set of practices that agencies should implement to achieve successful incorporation," the report said. "Revise OPM’s data-collection methodology to ensure agencies and OPM report reliable results on the extent to which agencies have incorporated telework into their emergency and continuity planning and operations. Establish an interagency coordination process among OPM, FEMA, FPS, GSA, and NARA to ensure all major areas of agency operations are considered when OPM issues new or updated guidance related to using telework during emergencies."

The GAO provided a draft of the report to the Secretary of Homeland Security, the director of the Office of Personnel Management and the administrator of General Services Administration, and sent copies to congressional committees with jurisdiction over the DHS and GSA.