By Joab Jackson
Federal agencies should do more to allow their employees to work at
home, according to a network security policy group. Should terrorists
strike U.S. metropolitan subways or highways, agencies will then be
better equipped to continue operations because workers can continue to
work from home, according to a report from the Cyber Security Industry
"Telework will make us a far more resilient. Even if we have a major
attack on the infrastructure downtown or on a major transport system,
we will still be able to communicate with each other," said Paul
Kurtz, executive director of CSIA.
Released last week, the report, Making Telework a Federal Priority:
Security is Not the Issue, notes that many federal agencies have
discouraged teleworking initiatives in the past, citing security
concerns about workers tapping into internal networks from afar. Few
still list security as a concern however, realizing the technology can
be robust enough to handle remote access, Kurtz said. Yet government
agencies still lag when it comes to offering employees the option to
The recent London bombings show how agency operations could be
hindered should terrorists strike public transportation, however.
"We are going to have disruptions in our community infrastructure
here, whether it will be a bomb threat or a bomb itself, where we
could have extended outages," Kurtz said.
Telework can help with agency continuity-of-operations plans in such
crises, CSIA suggests. The group cites Federal Preparedness Circular
65, issued in 1999, which provides guidance on how to develop disaster
contingency plans and specifically encouraged agencies to look at
Increasing federal teleworking would also reduce traffic congestion
and air pollution and, the report claims, increase employee
Despite an abundance of pilot programs, presidential directives,
legislative mandates and threats of funding cuts, agencies have been
falling behind their commercial counterparts in migrating people
toward working at home.
The report cites a May 2004 Government Accountability Office study
that showed the percentage of federal employees who were eligible to
telework did not increase between 2002 and 2003. CSIA contrasted this
stagnation with a 7.5 percent increase in the number U.S. home workers
from 2003 to 2004, according to a study conducted by the Dieringer
Research Group Inc. of Milwaukee.
Teleworking barriers are not technology-related, but rather cultural
and budgetary, the CSIA report posits. Mid-level managers still prefer
to physically watch over their workers, Kurtz said. Also, financial
considerations might be thwarting teleworking: Any money saved, such
as reducing office space, must be returned to the Treasury. Nor are
agencies enthusiastic about providing additional funding for telework
training and information.
The CSIA suggested that the President's Management Agenda for
e-government should include a component to increase teleworking.
Sept 16-18th, 2005
San Diego, California