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Testimony: 

Before the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the 
Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia, Committee on Homeland 
Security and Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 

GAO: 

For Release on Delivery Expected at 2:30 p.m. EDT: 

Tuesday, June 12, 2007: 

Human Capital: 

Greater Focus on Results in Telework Programs Needed: 

Statement of Bernice Steinhardt:
Director, Strategic Issues: 

GAO-07-1002T: 

GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-07-1002T, a testimony before the Subcommittee on 
Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the 
District of Columbia, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental 
Affairs, U.S. Senate 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

Telework continues to receive attention within Congress and federal 
agencies as a human capital strategy that offers various flexibilities 
to both employers and employees, including the capacity to continue 
operations during emergency events, as well as benefits to society, 
such as decreased energy use and pollution. 

This statement highlights some of GAO’s prior work on federal telework 
programs, including key practices for successful implementation of 
telework initiatives, identified in a 2003 GAO report and a 2005 GAO 
analysis of telework program definitions and methods in five federal 
agencies. In addition, the statement discusses GAO observations on the 
Telework Enhancement Act of 2007, S. 1000. 

What GAO Found: 

Through a number of legislative actions, Congress has indicated its 
desire that agencies create telework programs to accomplish a number of 
positive outcomes. Many of the current federal programs were developed 
in response to a 2000 law that required each executive branch agency to 
establish a telework policy under which eligible employees may 
participate in telecommuting to the maximum extent possible without 
diminishing employee performance. The legislative framework has 
provided the OPM and the General Services Administration (GSA) with 
lead roles for the governmentwide telework initiative, providing 
services and resources to support and encourage telework. Although 
agency telework policies meet common requirements and often share 
characteristics, each agency is responsible for developing its own 
policy to fit its mission and culture. 

In a 2003 report, GAO identified a number of key practices that federal 
agencies should implement in developing their telework programs. Four 
of these were closely aligned with managing for program results: (1) 
developing a business case for telework, (2) establishing measurable 
telework program goals, (3) establishing systems to collect data for 
telework program evaluation, and (4) identifying problems and making 
appropriate adjustments. None of the four agencies we reviewed, 
however, had effectively implemented any of these practices. In a 
related review of five other agencies in 2005, GAO reported that none 
of the agencies had the capability to track who was actually 
teleworking or how frequently, relying mostly on the number of telework 
agreements as the measure of program participation. 

S. 1000 is intended to enhance the existing legislative framework and 
provides that all employees of the executive, judicial, and legislative 
branches are eligible for telework except in some circumstances related 
to an employee’s duties and functions. The bill also recognizes the 
importance of leadership in promoting an agency’s telework program by 
requiring the appointment of a senior-level management official to 
perform several functions to promote and enhance telework 
opportunities. GAO's statement suggests changes to the assignment of 
responsibilities for rating and reporting along with changes to make 
the responsibilities for heads of agency and entities in the 
legislative and judicial branches more consistent with those of 
executive branch officials. The statement also points out several 
provisions of S. 1000 that are not clear in relation to existing 
legislation. 

What GAO Recommends: 

This statement makes no new recommendations but reiterates that 
Congress should determine ways to promote more consistent telework 
definitions and measures. In particular, Congress might want to have 
the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Chief Human Capital 
Officers Council develop definitions and measures that would allow for 
a more meaningful assessment of progress in agency telework programs. 

[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-1002T]. 

To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click on 
the link above. For more information, contact Bernice Steinhardt at 
(202) 512-6806 or steinhardtb@gao.gov. 

[End of section] 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: 

I am pleased to be here today to discuss our observations of federal 
telework policies based on our past work and to provide additional 
observations that relate to the provisions of S. 1000, the Telework 
Enhancement Act of 2007. Telework is a human capital strategy which 
offers flexibilities to both employers and employees. It is 
increasingly recognized as an important means to achieving a number of 
federal efforts, including effective strategic human capital management 
of the federal workforce, and a greater capability to continue 
operations during emergency events, as well as affording environmental, 
energy, and other benefits to society. 

Congress has demonstrated its keen interest in promoting the use of 
telework in the federal government by establishing a wide-ranging 
statutory framework. This framework has included provisions directed at 
increasing employee eligibility for telework, requiring reporting and 
evaluation of telework implementation, establishing agency telework 
coordinators to lead the program, setting goals for the application of 
telework provisions to the federal workforce, and even withholding 
funds from some agencies that fail to show progress. S. 1000 is 
intended to advance this framework and the implementation of telework 
programs and to increase the eligibility of federal employees for 
telework as well as its use. 

My statement today will describe first the statutory framework that 
drives the agency telework programs and processes. We will also share 
observations from our past work that relate to agency telework 
methodologies, as well as our views of the specific legislation under 
consideration. And finally, we will offer some suggested next steps to 
advance the purposes of the bill. 

My comments are based on previously issued GAO reports that were 
developed in accordance with generally accepted government auditing 
standards. 

Congress Has Established a Statutory Framework to Promote Agency 
Telework Programs and Increase Employee Participation: 

Through a number of legislative actions, Congress has indicated its 
desire that agencies create telework programs to accomplish a number of 
positive outcomes. These actions have included recognizing the need for 
program leadership within the agencies; encouraging agencies to think 
broadly in setting eligibility requirements; requiring that employees 
be allowed, if eligible, to participate in telework, and requiring 
tracking and reporting of program results. Some legislative actions 
have provided for funding to assist agencies in implementing programs, 
while other appropriations acts withheld appropriated funds until the 
covered agencies certified that telecommuting opportunities were made 
available to 100 percent of each agency's eligible workforce. The 
Telework Enhancement Act of 2007, S. 1000, continues the efforts of 
Congress to achieve greater participation. 

The most significant congressional action related to telework was the 
enactment of Section 359 of Public Law No. 106-346 in October 2000, 
which provides the current mandate for telework in the executive branch 
of the federal government by requiring each executive agency to 
establish a policy under which eligible employees may participate in 
telework to the maximum extent possible without diminishing employee 
performance. The conference report language further explained that an 
eligible employee is any satisfactorily performing employee of the 
agency whose job may typically be performed at least one day per week 
by teleworking. In addition, the conference report required the Office 
of Personnel Management (OPM) to evaluate the effectiveness of the 
program and report to Congress. 

The legislative framework has provided both the General Services 
Administration (GSA) and OPM with lead roles for the governmentwide 
telework initiative, to provide services and resources to support and 
encourage telework, including providing guidance to agencies in 
developing their program procedures.[Footnote 1] In addition, Congress 
required certain agencies to designate telework coordinators to be 
responsible for overseeing the implementation of telework programs and 
serve as points of contact on such programs for the Committees on 
Appropriations. 

GSA and OPM provide services and resources to support the 
governmentwide telework implementation. OPM publishes telework 
guidance, which it recently updated, and works with the agency telework 
coordinators to guide implementation of the programs and annually 
report the results achieved. GSA offers a variety of services to 
support telework, including developing policy concerning alternative 
workplaces, managing the federal telework centers, maintaining the mail 
list server for telework coordinators, and offering technical support, 
consultation, research, and development to its customers. Jointly, OPM 
and GSA manage the federal Web site for telework, which was designed to 
provide information and guidance. The site provides access for 
employees, managers, and telework coordinators to a range of 
information related to telework, including announcements, guides, laws, 
and available training. 

Although agency telework policies meet common requirements and often 
share some common characteristics, each agency is responsible for 
developing its own policy to fit its mission and culture. According to 
OPM, most agencies have specified occupations that are eligible for 
telework and most apply employee performance-related criteria in 
considering authorizing telework participation. In addition, OPM 
guidance states that eligible employees should sign an employee 
telework agreement and be approved to participate by their managers. 
The particular considerations in regard to these requirements and 
procedures will differ among agencies. 

Better Performance Measures and Program Evaluations Could Improve the 
Assessment of Telework in the Federal Government: 

In our 2003 study of telework in the federal government,[Footnote 2] we 
identified 25 key practices that federal agencies should implement in 
developing their telework programs. A full list of the key practices 
appears in appendix I. Among those were several practices closely 
aligned with managing for program results, including: 

* developing a business case for implementing a telework program; 

* establishing measurable telework program goals; 

* establishing processes, procedures, and/or a tracking system to 
collect data to evaluate the telework program; and: 

* identifying problems and/or issues with the telework program and 
making appropriate adjustments. 

Yet, in our assessment of the extent to which four agencies--the 
Department of Education, GSA, OPM, and the Department of Veterans 
Affairs--followed the 25 key practices, we found these four practices 
to be among the least employed. 

In discussing the business case key practice in our 2003 study, we 
cited the International Telework Association and Council, which had 
stated that successful and supported telework programs exist in 
organizations that understand why telework is important to them and 
what specific advantages can be gained through implementation of a 
telework program. A business case analysis of telework can ensure that 
an agency's telework program is closely aligned with its own strategic 
objectives and goals. Such an approach can be effective in engaging 
management on the benefits of telework to the organization. For 
example, making a case for telework as a part of an agency's Continuity 
of Operations (COOP) plan can help organizations understand why they 
support telework, address relevant issues, minimize business risk, and 
make the investment when it supports their objectives. Through business 
case analysis, organizations have been able to identify cost reductions 
in the telework office environment that offset additional costs 
incurred in implementing telework and the most attractive approach to 
telework implementation. None of the four agencies we reviewed, 
however, had effectively implemented this practice. 

Moreover, none of the four agencies had established measurable telework 
program goals. As we noted in our report, OPM's May 2003 telework 
guide[Footnote 3] discussed the importance of establishing program 
goals and objectives for telework that could be used in conducting 
program evaluations for telework in such areas as productivity, 
operating costs, employee morale, recruitment, and retention. However, 
even where measurement data are collected, they are incomplete or 
inconsistent among agencies, making comparisons meaningless. For 
example, in our 2005 report of telework programs in five agencies--the 
Departments of State, Justice, and Commerce; the Small Business 
Administration; and the Securities and Exchange Commission--measuring 
eligibility was problematic.[Footnote 4] Three of the agencies excluded 
employees in certain types of positions (e.g., those having positions 
where they handle classified information) when counting and reporting 
the number of eligible employees, while two of the agencies included 
all employees in any type of position when counting and reporting the 
number of eligible employees, even those otherwise precluded from 
participating. 

With regard to the third key practice aligned with managing for 
results--establishing processes, procedures and/or a tracking system to 
collect data to evaluate the telework program--in our 2003 review we 
found that none of the four agencies studied were doing a survey 
specifically related to telework or had a tracking system that provided 
accurate participation rates and other information about teleworkers 
and the program. At that time, we observed that lack of such 
information not only impeded the agencies in identifying problems or 
issues related to their programs but also prevented them from providing 
OPM and Congress with complete and accurate data. Also, in our 2005 
study at five agencies, we found that four of the five agencies 
measured participation in telework on the basis of their potential to 
telework rather than their actual usage. The fifth agency reported the 
number of participants based on a survey of supervisors who were 
expected to track teleworkers. According to OPM, most agencies report 
participation based on telework agreements, which can include both 
those for employees teleworking on a continuing basis as well as those 
for episodic telework. None of the five agencies we looked at had the 
capability to track who was actually teleworking or how frequently, 
despite the fact that the fiscal year 2005 consolidated appropriations 
act covering those agencies required each of them to provide a 
quarterly report to Congress on the status of its telework program, 
including the number of federal employees participating in its program. 
At that time, two of the five agencies said they were in the process of 
implementing time and attendance systems that could track telework 
participation, but had not yet fully implemented them. The other three 
agencies said that they did not have time and attendance systems with 
the capacity to track telework. 

Based on our findings, the following language was included for those 
five agencies in their fiscal year 2006 appropriations act's conference 
report: 

"The conferees are troubled that many of the agencies' telework 
programs do not even have a standardized manner in which to report 
participation. The conferees expect each of these agencies to implement 
time and attendance systems that will allow more accurate reporting." 

Despite this language, officials at four of the five agencies said that 
they have not yet developed such systems and are still measuring 
participation as they did in 2005. For the fifth agency--the Department 
of Justice (DOJ)--an official told us that the department has now 
implemented a Web-based time and attendance system in most bureaus and 
that this system allows DOJ to track actual telework participation in 
those bureaus. According to this official, the Federal Bureau of 
Investigation is the major exception, but DOJ is working towards having 
all bureaus use this system. 

As for the fourth key practice closely related to managing for program 
results--identifying problems and/or issues with the telework program 
and making appropriate adjustments--none of the four agencies we 
reviewed for our 2003 study had fully implemented this practice and one 
of the four had taken no steps to do so despite the importance of using 
data to evaluate and improve telework programs. An OPM official told 
us, for example, that she did not use the telework data she collected 
to identify issues with the program; instead, she relied on employees 
to bring problems to her attention. 

To help agencies better manage for results through telework programs, 
in our 2005 study, we said that Congress should determine ways to 
promote more consistent definitions and measures related to telework. 
In particular, we suggested that Congress might want to have OPM, 
working through the Chief Human Capital Officers Council, develop a set 
of terms, definitions, and measures that would allow for a more 
meaningful assessment of progress in agency telework programs. Some 
information could be improved by more consistent definitions, such as 
eligibility. Some information may take additional effort to collect, 
for example, on actual usage of telework. Some of this information may 
already be available through existing sources. The Federal Human 
Capital Survey, for example, which is administered biennially, asks 
federal employees about their satisfaction with telework. In the latest 
survey, only 22 percent indicated they were satisfied or very 
satisfied, while 44 percent indicated they had no basis to judge-- 
certainly there seems to be room for improvement there. In any case, 
OPM and the Chief Human Capital Officers Council are well-situated to 
sort through these issues and consider what information would be most 
useful. The council and OPM could also work together on strategies for 
agencies to use the information for program improvements, including 
benchmarking. 

The Telework Enhancement Act of 2007, S. 1000, Addresses Key Telework 
Issues, but Some Provisions Merit Additional Consideration: 

S. 1000 is intended to enhance the existing legislative framework and 
provides that all employees of executive agencies are eligible for 
telework except in some circumstances related to an employee's duties 
and functions. In addition, the bill addresses the coverage of 
employees in the legislative and judicial branches and provides that 
within 1 year from the date of enactment, policies shall be established 
to allow such employees, unless otherwise excluded, to participate in 
telework to the maximum extent possible without diminishing employee 
performance or legislative or judicial branch operations. The bill 
further recognizes the importance of leadership in promoting an 
agency's telework program by requiring the appointment of a senior- 
level management official to perform several functions to promote and 
enhance telework opportunities. 

We have several observations to offer on the bill. As we have discussed 
with your staff, we have specific concerns about section 5 of the bill, 
which would require GAO to establish and implement a rating system for 
agency compliance with and participation in telework initiatives and 
report the results. For executive branch agencies, we believe this 
function is more appropriately placed with OPM. A GAO rating system 
that does not have the benefit of a full GAO evaluation of the 
underlying information would raise concerns that our independence is 
compromised if we were asked at a future time to evaluate telework 
programs in the federal government. Accordingly, we have provided 
Committee staff with substitute language that would place these rating 
and report functions in OPM, the agency that is currently responsible 
for reporting on most telework activities and participation in the 
executive branch. Our substitute language would have the Comptroller 
General instead provide his views on the OPM report to the Senate 
Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the House 
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform within 6 months of the 
report. 

We would also like to bring several other issues to your attention. The 
bill would extend coverage of these telework initiatives to the 
legislative and judicial branches. We suggest substituting a reference 
to "the head of each legislative branch entity" in sections 2(c)(3) and 
4(a) of the bill so that the heads of the Library of Congress, the 
Government Printing Office, and GAO, for example, would be responsible 
for developing agency policies on telework, determining which employees 
are eligible for telework, and designating senior-level employees to 
serve as telework managing officers. This approach would be consistent 
with the coverage of the executive branch under the bill where the head 
of each agency would perform similar functions. 

With regard to the bill's requirement to appoint a telework managing 
officer in each executive branch agency, it is not clear how that 
employee's duties would relate to the duties of the agency officials 
currently designated as telework coordinators pursuant to the 
provisions of section 627 of Public Law No. 108-199. Another provision 
of the bill would define telework as occurring on at least 2 business 
days per week, leaving unclear how this would relate to the broader 
definitions of telework currently defined in existing legislation and 
OPM guidance, which includes episodic or occasional instances. It is 
also unclear whether the bill intends to allow agencies to consider 
employee performance in making telework eligibility decisions. Current 
legislation and agency practice requires employees to be performing 
satisfactorily. 

The bill also provides for "productivity awards" for teleworking 
employees, but it is not clear whether nonteleworking employees would 
also be eligible to receive productivity awards and would be evaluated 
on the same performance standards. We would note that one of the key 
practices identified in our 2003 report was ensuring that the same 
performance standards are used to evaluate both teleworkers and 
nonteleworkers. The perception that care had not been taken to 
establish fair and equitable eligibility criteria could present 
performance and morale issues. Finally, the bill includes among the 
duties of the telework managing officer assisting the head of the 
agency in designating employees to telework in order to continue agency 
operations in the event of a major disaster as defined under the 
Stafford Act, 42 U.S.C. § 5122. We would note, however, that telework 
can be effective in a variety of emergency conditions not limited to 
those emergencies defined under the Stafford Act. For example, we 
reported that GAO's telework capability was significant to assisting 
the House of Representatives and minimizing the disruption to its own 
operations when anthrax bacteria were released on Capitol Hill in 
2001.[Footnote 5] 

In conclusion, telework is a key strategy to accomplish a variety of 
federal purposes. Telework is an investment in both an organization's 
people and the agency's capacity to perform its mission. We continue to 
believe that OPM and the Chief Human Capital Officers Council are well- 
positioned to help agencies better manage for results through telework. 
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, this completes my 
statement. I would be pleased to respond to any questions that you 
might have. 

Contacts and Acknowledgements: 

Fore further information on this testimony, please contact Bernice 
Steinhardt, Director, Strategic Issues, (202) 512-6806 or at 
steinhardtb@gao.gov. Individuals making key contributions to this 
testimony include William J. Doherty, Joyce D. Corry, Allen Lomax, and 
Michael Volpe. 

[End of section] 

Appendix I: Key Telework Practices for Implementation of Successful 
Federal Telework Programs: 

[See PDF for Image] 

Source: GAO analysis of telework-related literature and guidelines. 

[End of figure] 

FOOTNOTES 

[1] GAO reported that the efforts of OPM and GSA, with lead roles in 
implementation of telework in the federal government, had not been well 
coordinated and, in response, the two agencies took a number of actions 
to improve coordination, including developing and signing a joint 
memorandum of understanding. GAO, Human Capital: Key Practices to 
Increasing Federal Telework, GAO-04-950T (Washington, D.C.: July 8, 
2004). 

[2] GAO, Human Capital: Further Guidance, Assistance, and Coordination 
Can Improve Federal Telework Efforts, GAO-03-679 (Washington, D.C.: 
July 18, 2003). 

[3] U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Telework: A Management 
Priority--A Guide for Managers, Supervisors, and Telework Coordinators 
(Washington, D.C.: May 2003). 

[4] GAO, Agency Telework Methodologies: Departments of Commerce, 
Justice, State, the Small Business Administration, and the Securities 
and Exchange Commission, GAO-05-1055R (Washington, D.C.: Sept . 27, 
2005). 

[5] GAO, Human Capital: Opportunities to Improve Federal Continuity 
Planning Guidance, GAO-04-384 (Washington, D.C.: April 20, 2004).

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