The private sector has shown us that telework -- that is, working from our computers at home -- has the potential for real and significant benefits and cost savings.  In fact, private firms have produced cost savings by using shared office space among teleworkers and reducing real estate costs.  Strong telework policies have also been shown to improve employee recruitment, retention and morale and thereby improve work performance.

We have tremendous potential within the federal government to be an example for the nation -- to take this a step further and demonstrate on a broader scale how innovation and technology can improve work performance, quality of life and our environment.  It is in this spirit that this telework amendment came to be part of the energy bill.

Specifically, Representative Wolf (R-Va.)and I were able to include provisions in the bill that require each federal agency to establish a telework policy within one year.  Employees who handle national security or intelligence materials or special equipment would be exempted from the policy.  Our amendment provides for training and monitoring; designates a senior telework managing employee in each of the agencies; and requires the GAO to examine and evaluate the telework policies of each agency.

So improved federal telework will not only reduce carbon emissions and traffic gridlock in the National Capital Region, it will also improve quality of life and much needed recruitment in the federal workforce, as well as enhance reconstitution efforts in the event of a terrorist attack or natural disaster.  Senator Landrieu (D-La.), someone who knows a little bit about what it takes to restore operations after a natural disaster, has pursued similar legislation in the Senate for this very reason.

Obviously there are positions that will not be suitable for telework.  This amendment does not place burdensome quotas on agencies.  It simply requires the agencies to provide telework options when practicable and asks the GAO to study whether or not agency telework policies are sound and substantial.

The federal government has not uniformly implemented a telework policy to this point.  There is no accurate accounting of the number of employees who participate in telework but depending on who does the survey (GSA, OPM, or other agencies), the percentage of the federal workforce is somewhere between 1 percent and 4 percent.  We can do much better.  Our federal employees are enormously dedicated to their jobs and to serving the public.  The least we can do is give them the flexibility to harness the opportunities and adjust to the obstacles of today’s work environment.