Davis urges action on 'floundering' telework numbers

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), frustrated with the government's progress in promoting telework, urged the Office of Personnel Management to move forward on the issue.

In a brief appearance at a hearing on OPM's strategic plan and fiscal 2007 budget request yesterday, the Government Reform Committee chairman said the federal government is lagging behind the private sector in providing telework options for its workforce.

'We've got to be able to work out some guidelines to enable these agencies' to clarify their telework options, Davis told OPM chief Linda Springer at a hearing held by the Government Reform Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce and Agency Organization.

While the private sector is moving forward, 'at the federal level, we see ourselves floundering at this,' he said. 'When are we going to get with the program?'

Springer said that although the government has made considerable strides in recent years in promoting telework, more needs to be done.

'We do need to do it,' she said. Telework has 'proven that it works. We need to make sure agencies are including this in their recruiting options' to prospective employees.

Telework is increasingly important, she said, in the wake of last year's hurricanes and natural disasters. This is 'becoming even more of an urgency today than it has been in the past,' she said.

Although Davis is currently not planning any legislative action on the topic, he is frustrated by the government's telework progress, said committee staff director David Marin.

'[W]hen he gets a chance to question the OPM director in public on any matter, telework is bound to be front and center,' Marin said.

A recent survey found that more employees are taking advantage of telework. Computer hardware and software seller CDW Government Inc. of Vernon Hills, Ill., foundthe percentage of workers telecommuting has increased from 19 percent to 41 this year, according to the 500 employees surveyed.

Meanwhile, Springer urged Congress to approve the $26.7 million in its 2007 budget request for the Retirement Systems Modernization project, which will significantly improve and expedite how OPM provides services to all Civil Service Retirement System and Federal Employees Retirement System users.

OPM is still using a paper-based system consisting of approximately 28,000 file cabinets that would stretch from Washington to Baltimore and back, Springer said, presenting an untenable situation as the government prepares for a massive wave of baby boomer retirements.

'We've got to have this new system,' she said. 'We can't keep using the file system we have today, it's not going to work.'

OPM issued a solicitation for the retirement systems project in Novemberand Springer said the agency hopes to award a contract by May 1.

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