August 1, 2005 By News Report
"It is a fairly common misconception that cyber security concerns are holding back telework in the federal government. However, our research indicates that not only are the cyber security and technology requirements achievable, but that telework can in fact be beneficial to an agency's overall security by providing a viable strategy for maintaining continuity of operations during a security incident or natural disaster," said Paul Kurtz, executive director of CSIA. "Unfortunately, recent events have made it clear that Washington must prepare itself for a disruption to its transportation system. A more flexible workforce that is able to work from virtual locations would certainly lessen the impact of an attack."
In addition to business continuity planning, other benefits of telework include the reduction of traffic congestion and air pollution, as well as productivity and retention gains for employers, which have been well- documented in the private sector where telework is more common.
According to the report, the federal government has made little progress on telework despite 15 years of pilot programs, presidential directives, legislative mandates and even the threat to cut funding for substandard efforts. After analyzing the obstacles to telework in the federal sector, CSIA determined that cultural and budgetary barriers, not technology ones, are hampering its adoption.
The two biggest obstacles standing in the way of expanding telework in the federal sector are weak incentives for agencies since they must return any money saved from reduced overhead expenses, such as office space costs, to the federal treasury and lack of support from managers who prefer to have employees in the same physical location. Other barriers cited by the General Accounting Office (GAO) include a lack of full funding to support telework initiatives and a shortage of training and information on telework. GAO did not list technology or cyber security as an obstacle.
In addition to encouraging OMB to have agencies include telework in their COOP plans, CSIA outlines the following policy recommendations to the administration and Congress to expand federal telework programs:
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