oversight

Facilities Location: Progress and Barriers in Selecting Rural Areas and Using Telework

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-09-04.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                              United States General Accounting Office

GAO                           Testimony
                              Before the Committee on Small Business,
                              House of Representatives


For Release on Delivery
Expected at 9:30 a.m. EST
Thursday, September 4, 2003   FACILITIES LOCATION
                              Progress and Barriers in
                              Selecting Rural Areas and
                              Using Telework
                              Statement of Bernard L. Ungar
                              Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues




GAO-03-1110T
                                                September 4, 2003


                                                FACILITIES LOCATION

                                                Progress and Barriers in Selecting Rural
Highlights of GAO-03-1110T, a testimony         Areas and Using Telework
to Committee on Small Business, House
of Representatives




The location of an organization’s               Even though federal agencies have been required since 1972 to develop
facilities has far reaching and long-           policies and procedures to give priority to locating new offices and other
lasting impacts on its operational              facilities in rural areas, this requirement has not been an important factor in
costs and ability to attract and                location decisions. In September 1990 we reported that there were multiple
retain workers. The Rural                       laws and regulations to guide federal agencies in selecting facility locations,
Development Act of 1972 has
required federal agencies to give
                                                but they did not always provide for consideration of the best financial
first priority to locating new offices          interest of the government as a factor in the decision-making process. In
and other facilities in rural areas.            July 2001 we reported that many agencies had not issued policies and
Rural areas generally have lower                procedures to give rural areas priority when considering the location of new
real estate and labor costs, but                facilities. Only about 12 percent of federal workers were located in
agency missions often require                   nonmetropolitan statistical areas, a percentage that remained unchanged
locations in urban areas.                       from 1989 to 2000. Agencies said the need to be near clients, primarily in
                                                urban areas, dictated the location of most operations in urban areas. In spite
Telework, also called                           of not having policies to give priority to rural areas, agencies sometimes
telecommunicating or flexiplace, is             locate their operations in rural areas to serve clients in those areas. Also,
a tool that allows employees to                 some functions, such as research and development, supply and storage,
work at home or another work
location other than a traditional
                                                automated data processing, and finance and accounting, can be located in
office. Benefits of telework include            rural areas. Rural areas can offer lower real estate costs, improved security,
reducing traffic congestion,                    reduced parking and traffic congestion problems, and better access to major
improving the recruitment and                   transportation arteries. Potential barriers to locating in rural areas include
retention of workers, and reducing              the lack of public transportation, lack of available labor, location far from
the need for office space.                      some other agency facilities, and sometimes insufficient infrastructure for
Telework could allow federal                    high-speed telecommunications. In our July 2001 report, we made several
workers who live in rural areas to              recommendations to the General Services Administration and Congress to
work in or near their homes, at                 improve location decisionmaking. Congress and the General Services
least some of the time.                         Administration subsequently took action to stress the requirements of the
                                                Rural Development Act.
This testimony summarizes and
updates work GAO has previously
done on the progress in and                     Congress has promoted telework in several ways, including authorizing of
barriers to the federal                         telework centers in the Washington, D.C., area, requiring agencies to
government’s efforts to locate its              establish a policy under which employees may participate in telecommuting
operations and workers, when                    to the maximum extent possible, and encouraging the development of high-
possible, in rural areas.                       speed Internet access in rural areas. However, only about 5 percent of the
                                                federal workforce is currently teleworking. In our July 2003 report, we
                                                recommended that the General Services Administration and the Office of
                                                Personnel Management improve their coordination and provide agencies
                                                with more consistent guidance on telework and assist agencies in
                                                implementing key practices we identified. The agencies generally agreed
                                                with our recommendations and committed to implement them. In addition,
                                                the Congressional Research Service reported in July 2003 that about 85
                                                percent of U.S. households have broadband access, although rural, minority,
                                                low-income, inner city, tribal, and U.S. territory consumers are particularly
www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-1110T.
                                                vulnerable to not receiving this service. Technological barriers, such as the
To view the full product, including the scope   lack of access to high-speed Internet connections, could have a detrimental
and methodology, click on the link above.       effect on the ability of some federal workers in rural areas to take advantage
For more information, contact Bernard Ungar
at ungarb@gao.gov.
                                                of telework.
          Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:

          We are pleased to be here to testify on federal agencies’ efforts to consider
          locating facilities in rural areas, as required by the Rural Development Act
          of 1972 (RDA), and to use telework1 as a way of allowing workers to live in
          rural areas. My testimony is based on our September 1990 and July 2001
          reports on facilities location2 and subsequent actions by the General
          Services Administration (GSA) to address our recommendations; selected
          agencies’ responses to a requirement in a fiscal year 2002 appropriations
          act directing Inspectors General to report on policies and procedures their
          agencies have to give first priority to the location of facilities in rural
          areas; and our July 2003 report on telework3 and other GSA, Office of
          Personnel Management (OPM), and Congressional Research Service
          (CRS) reports on telework. My testimony focuses on the progress federal
          agencies have made and barriers they face in locating federal buildings,
          when possible, in rural areas and making telework available to federal
          workers who live in rural areas.


          Although RDA has required federal agencies to establish policies and
Summary   procedures giving first priority to the location of new offices and other
          facilities in rural areas since 1972, RDA has not been an important factor in
          federal location decisions. Many agencies have not issued policies and
          procedures regarding RDA, and there is little evidence that agencies
          consider RDA’s requirements when locating new federal facilities. Agency
          officials said requirements to be near clients in urban areas to accomplish
          their missions dictated the location of most operations in urban areas.
          However, some agencies locate operations in rural areas to serve rural
          populations, and functions such as research and development, supply and
          storage, automated data processing, and finance and accounting can often
          be located in rural areas. Benefits of rural areas can include improved


          1
           Telework, also referred to as telecommunicating or flexiplace, is work that is performed at
          an employee’s home or work location other than a traditional office.
          2
           U.S. General Accounting Office, Facilities Location Policy: GSA Should Propose a More
          Consistent and Businesslike Approach, GAO/GGD-90-109 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 28,
          1990); and U.S. General Accounting Office, Facilities Location: Agencies Should Pay More
          Attention to Costs and Rural Development Act, GAO-01-805 (Washington, D.C.: July 31,
          2001).
          3
           U.S. General Accounting Office, Human Capital: Further Guidance, Assistance, and
          Coordination Can Improve Federal Telework Efforts, GAO-03-679 (Washington, D.C.: July
          18, 2003).



          Page 1                                                                      GAO-03-1110T
security, reduced parking and traffic congestion problems, and better
access to major transportation arteries. Potential barriers to locating in
rural areas include the lack of public transportation, location far from
some other agency facilities, the lack of available labor, and insufficient
infrastructure for high-speed telecommunications. In 2000, about 12
percent of federal workers were located in nonmetropolitan statistical
areas.

In 2002, about 5 percent of the federal workforce was teleworking. In 2003,
we assessed the federal government’s progress in implementing telework
programs and found that, while recently improved, OPM and GSA have not
always coordinated their efforts; as a result, agencies have not always
received consistent, unambiguous support and guidance related to
telework. We identified 25 key practices, including 5 relating to technology
(such as providing technical support for teleworkers), that federal
agencies should implement in developing telework programs. We found
that the agencies we reviewed had fully implemented 7 of the 25 practices
but had generally implemented the 5 practices relating to technology. CRS
reported in July 20034 that about 85 percent of U.S. households have
access to high-speed Internet connections, but rural, minority, low-
income, inner city, tribal, and U.S. territory consumers are particularly
vulnerable to not receiving this service. Technological barriers, including
the lack of access to high-speed Internet connections, could have a
detrimental effect on the ability of some federal workers in rural areas to
take advantage of telework.

In our July 2001 report on federal location policies, we suggested that
Congress consider requiring agencies to consider real estate, labor, and
other costs, and applicable local incentives when making location
decisions and to amend RDA to clarify the definition of “rural area.” We
made similar recommendations to GSA and also recommended that GSA
require agencies to provide a written statement that they complied with
RDA and to justify their decision if they did not select a rural area.
Subsequent to our report, Congress has required agency inspectors
general to report on what policies and procedures are in place at their
agencies to comply with RDA, and GSA has issued additional guidance and
policies on RDA. In our July 2003 report on telework efforts, we
recommended that GSA and OPM improve coordination of their efforts to



4
Congressional Research Service, The Library of Congress, Broadband Internet Access:
Background and Issues (Washington, D.C.: Updated July 1, 2003).



Page 2                                                                  GAO-03-1110T
                        provide agencies with enhanced guidance on telework and to assist
                        agencies in implementing key practices we identified. GSA and OPM
                        generally agreed with our recommendations and committed to take steps
                        towards their implementation.


                        When considering areas in which to locate, RDA directs the heads of all
The Rural               executive departments and agencies of the government to establish and
Development Act and     maintain departmental policies and procedures giving first priority to the
                        location of new offices and other facilities in rural areas. Any move by an
Other Federal           agency to new office space in another location would be considered a new
Location Policies       office or facility covered by RDA.

                        Two primary executive orders on federal facility location decisions are
                        Executive Order 12072, Federal Space Management, dated August 16,
                        1978; and Executive Order 13006, Locating Federal Facilities on Historic
                        Properties, dated May 21, 1996. Executive Order 12072 specifies that when
                        the agency mission and program requirements call for federal facilities to
                        be located in urban areas, agencies must give first consideration to
                        locating in a central business area and adjacent areas of similar character.
                        Executive Order 13006 requires the federal government to utilize and
                        maintain, wherever operationally appropriate and economically prudent,
                        historic properties and districts, especially those located in the central
                        business area.


                        In 1990, we reviewed whether federal agencies give rural areas first
Agencies Generally      priority in location decisions as required by RDA and whether any changes
Locate in Urban Areas   in federal location policies were warranted. We reported that RDA had not
                        been an important factor in federal facility location decisions. In fiscal
and Lack Policies and   year 1989, about 12 percent of federal civilian workers were located in
Procedures for          nonmetropolitan statistical areas. Agency officials attributed mission
                        requirements, the need to be in areas where the populations they serve are
Considering RDA         located, political considerations, and budget pressures as reasons why
                        urban areas received more facilities than rural areas. Those agencies that
                        did locate in rural areas said it was more because they served rural
                        populations than because they were following the requirements of RDA.

                        We also reported that a growing number of private sector corporations
                        were moving to suburban and rural settings to take advantage of
                        incentives offered by localities to attract jobs and the ability to separate
                        functions resulting from changes in telecommunications technology. We
                        concluded that there were multiple laws and regulations guiding federal

                        Page 3                                                           GAO-03-1110T
agencies in selecting facility locations, but they do not always provide for
consideration of the best financial interest of the government as a factor in
the decision-making process. We recommended that GSA develop a more
consistent and cost-conscious governmentwide location policy that would
require agencies, in meeting their needs, to maximize competition and
select sites that offer the best overall value considering such factors as
real estate and labor costs.

In 2001, we performed follow-up work on our 1990 report including
identifying what functions lend themselves to being located in rural areas.
We reported that since our 1990 study, federal agencies continued to
locate for the most part in higher cost, urban areas. The percentage of
federal employees located in nonmetropolitan statistical areas in 2000
remained virtually unchanged from 1989, at about 12 percent. Eight of the
13 cabinet agencies we surveyed had no formal RDA policy, and there was
little evidence that agencies considered RDA’s requirements when locating
new federal facilities. Further, GSA had not developed a cost-conscious,
governmentwide location policy as we recommended in 1990 and the
definition of rural used in RDA was unclear.

We reported in 2001 that agencies chose urban areas for most (72 percent)
of the 115 federal sites acquired from fiscal year 1998 through fiscal year
2000. Agencies said they selected urban areas primarily because of the
need to be near agency clients and related government and private sector
facilities to accomplish their missions. The agencies that selected rural
areas said they did so because of lower real estate costs. Agencies that
relocated operations tended to relocate within the same areas where they
were originally located, which were mainly urban areas; newly established
locations were almost equally divided between urban and rural areas.
Private sector companies surveyed said they select urban areas over rural
areas largely because of the need to be near a skilled labor force.

Agencies said the benefits of locating in urban areas were efficiency in
agency performance as a result of the ability to share existing facilities,
close proximity to other agency facilities and employees, and accessibility
to public transportation. Agencies that chose rural sites said that benefits
included close proximity to agency support facilities, improved building
and data security, and better access to major transportation arteries, such
as interstate highways. Barriers reported for urban sites included the lack
of building security and expansion space. For rural areas, barriers
included the lack of public transportation, location far from other agency
facilities, and insufficient infrastructure for high-speed
telecommunications.

Page 4                                                          GAO-03-1110T
    The functions that were located predominantly at urban sites during 1998
    through 2000 were loans/grants/benefits administration processing,
    inspection and auditing, and health and medical services. The functions
    that were located predominantly in rural areas in that period were
    research and development, supply and storage, automated data
    processing, and finance and accounting. Some functions, such as law
    enforcement, were placed in both urban and rural areas, although this
    particular function was located more often at urban sites.

    For our 2001 study, we contracted with a private sector consultant, John
    D. Dorchester, Jr., of The Dorchester Group, L.L.C., to assist us in a
    number of tasks. One task was to identify functions the private sector
    might locate in rural areas. The consultant identified the following
    functions:5

•   Accounting
•   Account representative
•   Appraisal/market research
•   Clerical/secretarial
•   Data processing
•   Distribution/warehousing
•   Education/training
•   Enforcement and quality control
•   Field service operations
•   Human resources and social services
•   Information technologies services
•   Legal support
•   Logistical support
•   Manufacturing and assembly offices
•   Operations centers
•   Printing and publishing
•   Records archiving
•   Repairs and servicing
•   Scientific studies and research and development
•   Technical functions and support
•   Telemarketing, order processing, and communications
    We also asked our consultant to identify the benefits and challenges
    associated with rural areas for selected functions. (See table 1.)




    5
    The Dorchester Group, LLC.,Office Location Considerations of Large U.S. Corporations:
    U.S. Government Potentials (Scottsdale, AZ: Mar. 31, 2001).



    Page 5                                                                 GAO-03-1110T
Table 1: Benefits and Challenges Associated With Rural Areas for Nine Functions

 Function                                     Benefits                                    Challenges
 Accounting                                    Lower wages and operating                  Data security and quality
                                               costs                                      control
 Data processing                               Reduced costs of office and                Needs skills more often
                                               labor                                      found in metropolitan
                                                                                          areas
 Distribution and warehousing                  Savings on labor and real                  Needs good
                                               estate                                     transportation links
 Education and training                        Fewer distractions and                     None identified
                                               recreation opportunities
 Enforcement/quality control                  None identified                             Needs good regional
                                                                                          access
 Printing and publishing                       None identified                            Needs good
                                                                                          transportation links
 Records archiving                             Lower costs for real estate                Limited access to records
                                               and wages
 Scientific studies/research                   Better security; in some      Specialized employees
 and development                               cases, access to universities may have to be recruited
                                                                             nationally
 Telemarketing, order                          Operating cost efficiencies                Sufficient and sustainable
 processing, communications                                                               labor pool
Source: The Dorchester Group, L.L.C., Office Location Considerations of Large U.S. Corporations: U.S. Government Potentials
(Scottsdale, AZ: Mar. 31, 2001).


Our July 2001 report suggested that Congress consider enacting legislation
to (1) require agencies to consider real estate, labor, and other operational
costs and local incentives when making a location decision; and (2) clarify
the meaning of “rural area” in RDA. We also recommended that GSA revise
its guidance to agencies to require agencies making location decisions to
consider real estate, labor, and other costs and local incentives. In
addition, we recommended that GSA require agencies subject to its
authority to provide a written statement that they had given first priority to
locating in a rural area and to justify their decision if they did not select a
rural area. We also recommended that GSA define rural area until
Congress amended RDA to define the term. Subsequent to our report, GSA
took action on our recommendations; actions which are described in
greater detail below.




Page 6                                                                                                      GAO-03-1110T
                           The Fiscal Year 2002 Treasury and General Government Appropriations
Policies to Consider       Act, Public Law 107-67, required the inspectors general (IG) of
RDA Have Been              departments and agencies to submit to the appropriations committees a
                           report detailing what policies and procedures are in place requiring them
Strengthened but           to give first priority to the location of new offices and other facilities in
Procedures are Still       rural areas, as directed by RDA. These reports were due in May 2002. A
                           similar requirement was included in the Consolidated Appropriations
Lacking                    Resolution for Fiscal Year 2003, Public Law 108-7. However, because the
                           IGs had until August 20, 2003, to report on this, we did not have the
                           opportunity to review those reports required by Public Law 108-7 for this
                           testimony.

                           GSA’s May 2, 2002, response to the Public Law 107-67 requirement
                           described the policies that GSA had in place to give first priority to the
                           location of new offices and other facilities in rural areas, as well as what
                           actions GSA had taken in response to our July 2001 recommendations.
                           GSA took the following actions:

                       •   The Federal Management Regulation, section 102-83.30, was revised to
                           require federal agencies to also consider real estate, labor, and other
                           operational costs and applicable incentives in addition to mission and
                           program requirements when locating space, effective December 13, 2002.

                       •   The Public Buildings Service Customer Guide to Real Property was
                           revised to require agencies to provide GSA with a written statement
                           affirming that they have given first priority to locating in a rural area as
                           required by RDA when requesting space from GSA.

                       •   The Federal Management Regulation, section 102-83.55, effective
                           December 13, 2002, was revised to define “rural area” as a city, town, or
                           unincorporated area that has a population of 50,000 inhabitants or fewer,
                           other than an urban area immediately adjacent to a city, town, or
                           unincorporated area that has a population in excess of 50,000 inhabitants.6

                       •   GSA published a recommendation in the Federal Register on January 21,
                           2003, that federal agencies with their own statutory authority to acquire
                           real property use the above definition of rural area and demonstrate



                           6
                            We noted in our 2001 report that the definition of “rural area” in RDA was unclear. In 2002,
                           the RDA definition was repealed in its entirety, and currently there is no statutory
                           definition of rural area in RDA. In 1972, RDA defined rural as any area in a city or town
                           with a population less than 10,000 inhabitants.



                           Page 7                                                                       GAO-03-1110T
compliance with RDA by including a written statement in their files
affirming that they have given first priority to the location of new offices
and other federal facilities in rural areas.

These actions responded to all of our July 2001 recommendations with the
exception of one. We had recommended that GSA require agencies, when
selecting a new facility location, to provide a written statement that they
had given first priority to locating in a rural area. If a rural area was not
selected, agencies were to provide a justification for the decision. GSA’s
new guidance does not require agencies not selecting a rural area to justify
their decision.

We also reviewed the IG reports detailing the policies and procedures in
place regarding giving first priority to rural areas as required by Public
Law 107-67 for the Departments of Energy, the Interior, Justice,
Transportation, and Veterans Affairs. According to GSA data,7 these
agencies, along with the Department of Defense and the United States
Postal Service, have the largest amount of owned and leased building
square footage in the federal government. We excluded sites acquired by
the Defense Department because it has so much vacant space available at
its bases nationally that it has no choice but to give priority consideration
to its existing vacant space when locating new or existing operations. We
excluded Postal Service sites because the Postal Service advised us it had
little or no discretion in deciding where to locate most of its facilities in
that they needed to be in specific locations to serve customers or near
airports. In addition, the Postal Service is exempt from federal laws
relating to contracts and property and it has authority to acquire space
independently of GSA.

The IG reports for the five departments said that only two departments
had written policies regarding RDA, and only one of these two had issued
procedures. However, the departments said that in spite of not having
written policies or procedures, they had located many of their facilities in
rural areas.

The Energy IG reported that Energy had no specific policies or
procedures, but it reported that a preponderance of the department’s
activities are located in remote parts of the United States.



7
 U.S. General Services Administration, Federal Real Property Profile, as of September 30,
2002 (Washington, D.C., 2002).



Page 8                                                                     GAO-03-1110T
The Interior IG reported that Department of the Interior and the U.S.
Geological Survey, 1 of 35 bureaus and offices in the Department of the
Interior, had policies regarding RDA. However, neither the department nor
any of the bureaus and offices had procedures to ensure compliance with
the policies. The IG reported that of the 270 locations established in the
last 5 years, 197 (73 percent) were located in rural areas. The IG said that
the decision to place facilities in rural areas was influenced by Interior’s
mission rather than by the requirements of RDA.

The Justice IG said Justice had no specific policy or procedures on RDA,
but department bureaus, offices, boards, and divisions were instructed to
implement all applicable federal regulations. The Justice IG cited the GSA
regulation requiring agencies to give first priority to the location of new
offices and other facilities in rural areas. The IG said it relies upon GSA for
most of its space needs, and GSA is responsible for compliance with RDA.
Further, the IG said the locations of its facilities are ultimately determined
by mission and operational requirements, which predominantly require
locations in major metropolitan areas. For example, U.S. Attorneys Offices
and the U.S. Marshals Service need to be located near federal courthouses
to accomplish their missions. The Bureau of Prisons is located in rural
areas to decrease land costs and increase security. The Immigration and
Naturalization Service8 is stationed in both urban and rural areas along the
borders of the United States. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the
Drug Enforcement Administration are law enforcement agencies, and their
missions and operational requirements determine the location of facilities.
The IG also pointed out that the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s data
center is located in a rural part of West Virginia.

The Department of Transportation policy on RDA was the most complete
of the agencies we reviewed in that Transportation has procedures that
require a discussion of the considerations given to rural areas and requires
an explanation if a rural location is not selected. However, the
Transportation IG said the department does not provide any guidance on
decision criteria or factors to be considered, such as cost-benefit analysis,
access to public transportation, or effects of relocation on the workforce.
Of 33 site location decisions made from October 1997 through February




8
 The Justice Inspector General report is dated July 30, 2002. Since the report was issued,
part of the Immigration and Naturalization Service is now in the Department of Homeland
Security.



Page 9                                                                      GAO-03-1110T
                        2002, the Transportation IG found that 24 had no documentation in the
                        files to indicate compliance with RDA.

                        According to the Veterans Affairs IG, the department had no written policy
                        or procedures regarding RDA. The IG said priority is given to locating new
                        Veterans Health Administration medical care facilities in locations
                        convenient to veteran patients and to collocating Veterans Benefits
                        Administration regional offices on Veterans Affairs medical center
                        grounds.


                        Telework could be used to allow federal workers who live in rural areas to
Federal Telework        work in or near their homes, at least on a part-time basis. For over a
Efforts are Improving   decade, telework, also called telecommuting or flexiplace, has gained
                        popularity because it offers the potential to benefit employers, including
but Limited             the federal government, by reducing traffic congestion and pollution,
                        improving the recruitment and retention of employees, increasing
                        productivity, and reducing the need for office space. Employees can
                        benefit from reduced commuting time; lower costs for transportation,
                        parking, food, and clothing; and a better balance of work and family
                        demands, which could improve morale and quality of life. Other benefits
                        might include removing barriers for those with disabilities who want to be
                        part of the work force and helping agencies maintain continuity of
                        operations in emergency operations.

                        Congress has enacted legislation that has promoted the use of telework in
                        several ways, including authorizing GSA telework centers, requiring each
                        agency to consider using alternate workplace arrangements when
                        considering whether to acquire space for use by employees, requiring each
                        agency to establish a policy under which eligible employees may
                        participate in telecommuting to the maximum extent possible, and
                        encouraging the deployment of high-speed Internet access in rural areas.
                        Congress has provided both GSA and OPM with lead roles and shared
                        responsibilities for advancing telework in the federal government.

                        Under the telework centers program, GSA supports 15 centers located in
                        the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. These centers make alternative
                        office environments available to federal employees to perform their work
                        at a site closer to their homes.




                        Page 10                                                      GAO-03-1110T
According to a recent OPM report,9 federal agencies reported in November
2002 that about 90,000 employees, or about 5 percent of the workforce,
were teleworking, compared with about 74,500, or 4.2 percent, reported in
2001. OPM reported that about 625,300 employees, or 35 percent of the
federal workforce, were eligible to telework in 2002, and 68.5 percent of
the total eligible federal workforce had been offered the opportunity to
telework. In 2002, 14.4 percent of eligible employees teleworked. OPM
reported that the rise in the number of teleworkers was due to a number
of factors, including intensified efforts by agencies to encourage telework
and a decline in management resistance to telework after training and
education efforts. OPM did not report on the number of federal workers
who resided in rural areas who were able to telework. We did not verify
the accuracy of the OPM data.

OPM reported a change in the ranking of major barriers to telework from
an April 2001 survey of agencies to the November 2002 survey. As shown
in table 2, security became the main barrier in 2002, replacing management
resistance, which had been the main barrier in 2001.

Table 2: Ranking of Major Barriers to Telework

    April 2001 Barriers                  November 2002 Barriers
    Management resistance                Data security
    Funding                              Information technology issues
    Employee resistance/concerns         Funding
    Information technology issues        Employee resistance/concerns
    Data security                        Management resistance
Source: OPM.


In July 2003 we reported on the federal government’s progress in
implementing telework programs. We found that although OPM and GSA
offer services and resources to encourage telework in the government,
they have not fully coordinated their efforts and have had difficulty in
resolving their conflicting views on telework-related matters. As a result,
agencies have not always received consistent, inclusive, unambiguous
support and guidance related to telework. We recommended that OPM and
GSA improve the coordination of their efforts to provide federal agencies
with enhanced support and guidance related to telework and to assist


9
 U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Report to the Congress: The Status of Telework in
the Federal Government (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 2003).



Page 11                                                                  GAO-03-1110T
                                       agencies in implementing 25 key practices we identified. After we
                                       discussed the issues created by the lack of coordination between GSA and
                                       OPM, a GSA official indicated that GSA and OPM would commit to
                                       improved coordination. The 25 key practices we identified by reviewing
                                       telework-related literature and guidelines that federal agencies should
                                       implement in developing telework programs are listed in table 3.

Table 3: Key Telework Practices for Implementing Successful Federal Telework Programs

Program                                     Telework practices
Program planning                            • Designate a telework coordinator
                                            • Establish a cross-functional project team, including, for example, information
                                              technology (IT), union representatives, and other stakeholders
                                            • Establish measurable telework program goals
                                            • Develop an implementation plan for the telework program
                                            • Develop a business case for implementing a telework program
                                            • Provide funding to meet the needs of the telework program
                                            • Establish a pilot program

Telework policy                             • Establish an agencywide telework policy
                                            • Establish eligibility criteria to ensure that teleworkers are selected on an equitable
                                              basis using such criteria as suitability of tasks and employee performance
                                            • Establish policies or requirements to facilitate communication among teleworkers,
                                              managers, and coworkers
                                            • Develop a telework agreement for use between teleworkers and their managers
                                            • Develop guidelines on workplace health and safety issues to ensure that
                                              teleworkers have safe and adequate places to work off-site
Performance management                      •    Ensure that the same performance standards, derived from a modern, effective,
                                                 credible, and validated performance system, are used to evaluate both
                                                 teleworkers and nonteleworkers
                                            •    Establish guidelines to minimize adverse impact on nonteleworkers before
                                                 employees begin working at alternate work sites
Managerial support                          •    Obtain support from top management for a telework program
                                            •    Address managerial resistance to telework
Training and publicizing                    •    Train all involved, including, at a minimum, managers and teleworkers
                                            •    Inform workforce about the telework program
Technology                                  •    Conduct assessment of teleworker and organization technology needs
                                            •    Develop guidelines about whether the organization or employee will provide
                                                 necessary technology, equipment, and supplies for telework
                                            •    Provide technical support for teleworkers
                                            •    Address access and security issues related to telework
                                            •    Establish standards for equipment in the telework environment




                                       Page 12                                                                       GAO-03-1110T
 Program                                                                   Telework practices
 Program evaluation                                                        • Establish processes, procedures, and/or a tracking system to collect data to
                                                                             evaluate the telework program
                                                                           • Identify problems and/or issues with the telework program and make appropriate
                                                                             adjustments
Source: GAO analysis of telework-related literature and guidelines.


                                                                      We found that the four agencies we reviewed for that report, the
                                                                      Departments of Education and Veterans Affairs, GSA, and OPM, had
                                                                      implemented 7 of the 25 practices and had generally implemented the 5
                                                                      practices relating to technology. Nevertheless, technological issues, such
                                                                      as not being able to access to high-speed Internet connections, could have
                                                                      a detrimental effect on the ability of some federal workers in rural areas to
                                                                      take advantage of telework.

                                                                      CRS reported this year on the ability of users to take advantage of high-
                                                                      speed, or broadband, Internet access. CRS reported that although many,
                                                                      but not all, offices and businesses now have Internet broadband access, a
                                                                      remaining challenge is providing broadband over “the last mile” to
                                                                      consumers in their homes. Congress has required the Federal
                                                                      Communications Commission (FCC) to determine whether advanced
                                                                      telecommunications capability is being deployed to all Americans in a
                                                                      reasonable and timely fashion and, if not, to take immediate action to
                                                                      accelerate deployment by removing barriers to infrastructure investment
                                                                      and by promoting competition in the telecommunications market.10

                                                                      In August 2000, FCC concluded that advanced telecommunications
                                                                      capability was being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion overall,
                                                                      although rural, minority, low-income, inner city, tribal, and U.S. territory
                                                                      consumers were particularly vulnerable to not receiving service in a timely
                                                                      fashion. In February 2002, FCC concluded that the deployment of
                                                                      advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans was reasonable
                                                                      and timely and investment in infrastructure for most markets remained
                                                                      strong, even though the pace of investment trends had slowed. According
                                                                      to CRS, about 85 percent of households have access to broadband.

                                                                      CRS also reported that the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and
                                                                      Technology concluded in December 2002 that although government
                                                                      should not intervene in the telecommunications marketplace, it should
                                                                      apply existing policies and promote government broadband applications


                                                                      10
                                                                       47 U.S.C. 157 note.



                                                                      Page 13                                                                 GAO-03-1110T
                  and telework, among other actions. CRS also noted that much broadband
                  legislation introduced in the 107th Congress sought to provide tax credits,
                  grants, and/or loans for broadband deployment, primarily in rural and/or
                  low income areas. It also noted that Public Law 107-171, the Farm Security
                  and Rural Investment Act of 2002, authorized a loan and loan guarantee
                  program to entities for facilities and equipment providing broadband
                  service in eligible rural communities. The purpose of this legislation is to
                  accelerate broadband deployment in rural areas.

                  Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared statement. I would be happy to
                  respond to any questions you or other Members of the Committee may
                  have at this time.


                  For further information on this testimony, please contact Bernard L. Ungar
Contacts and      on (202) 512-2834 or at ungarb@gao.gov. Key contributions to this
Acknowledgments   testimony were made by John Baldwin, Frederick Lyles, Susan Michal-
                  Smith, and Bill Dowdal.




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                  Page 14                                                        GAO-03-1110T
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