December 9, 2021

News

News Network

COVID-19: Federal Agencies’ Initial Reentry and Workplace Safety Planning

15 min read
<div>What GAO Found Federal agencies adopted a maximum telework posture following the March 2020 national emergency declaration related to COVID-19. In April 2020, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance established a framework for agencies to plan for the reentry of employees to the workplace and cognizant agencies issued guidance in 2020 on how to plan for the eventual return of the workforce to office locations. In response to the call for office reentry, the 24 Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Act agencies developed reentry plans. Agencies' 2020 reentry plans varied considerably. All the agencies developed phased approaches for reentry, though agencies did not progress through the established phases at the same rate and the characteristics of each phase differed by agency. None of the agencies' plans consistently covered all aspects of recommended federal guidance. For example, reentry planning documents for 10 or more agencies did not fully address employee training on reentry, office ventilation controls, and face covering requirements, as recommended by federal guidance. In January 2021, the new administration established the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (Task Force) to provide guidance to agencies and required a 25 percent capacity limit for federal buildings, subject to exceptions with approval. It also issued guidance directing agencies to submit plans addressing a set of model workplace safety principles to the Task Force. Agencies' workplace safety plans, in contrast to initial reentry plans, were generally consistent with the updated federal guidance. Agencies' plans cited most safety principles described in the guidance, including the occupancy limit and additional safety measures to protect the workforce, such as face mask requirements and optimized ventilation and air filtration. Agencies also established COVID-19 coordination teams, as required by January 2021 guidance. These teams developed and monitored agency plans, led decision-making regarding safety procedures and exceptions, and coordinated with external groups, including the Task Force. Federal oversight and coordination were limited for 2020 reentry planning but increased under 2021 guidance related to workplace safety. Initial reentry guidance did not include clear oversight roles and responsibilities. As a result, there was no government-wide oversight or review of initial agency reentry plans. Guidance issued in January 2021 established model safety principles and specific roles for the Task Force, directing Task Force members to guide and oversee agency COVID-19 workplace safety efforts. This increased clarity and oversight and supported consistency in workplace safety planning. The Task Force also used approaches to coordinate workplace safety planning that GAO previously identified as beneficial to support and sustain effective interagency collaboration. For example, the Task Force is made up of relevant participants, including agencies with expertise in health, emergency response, and employee safety. The Task Force supported agencies' COVID-19 response efforts and contributed input to agency workplace safety plans. Updated guidance released in June 2021 indicates that the Task Force and its members plan to continue these oversight and coordination efforts for continued workplace safety and updated reentry planning. Why GAO Did This Study The federal government employs approximately 2.8 million civilian workers, a workforce that plays an important role in maintaining vital government services. The White House, OMB, and other cognizant agencies issued guidance to support federal agencies as they developed tailored plans for bringing the federal workforce back to offices and safely conducting on-site work. The CARES Act included a provision for GAO to monitor and oversee the federal government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report (1) examines agencies' approaches to initial reentry planning, (2) assesses the extent to which agencies' workplace safety plans are consistent with federal guidance, and (3) examines the coordination and oversight of federal reentry and workplace safety planning across the government. GAO analyzed federal guidance from cognizant agencies to identify crosscutting themes for reentry planning, and reviewed OMB guidance on workplace safety principles. GAO assessed workplace safety plans, reentry plans, and relevant documentation from the 24 CFO Act agencies against the themes and principles identified in guidance and interviewed agency officials. GAO also reviewed guidance to identify oversight and coordination responsibilities and reviewed prior GAO work on pandemic preparedness and interagency collaboration. For more information, contact Michelle B. Rosenberg at (202) 512-6806 or rosenbergm@gao.gov.</div>

What GAO Found

Federal agencies adopted a maximum telework posture following the March 2020 national emergency declaration related to COVID-19. In April 2020, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance established a framework for agencies to plan for the reentry of employees to the workplace and cognizant agencies issued guidance in 2020 on how to plan for the eventual return of the workforce to office locations. In response to the call for office reentry, the 24 Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Act agencies developed reentry plans. Agencies’ 2020 reentry plans varied considerably. All the agencies developed phased approaches for reentry, though agencies did not progress through the established phases at the same rate and the characteristics of each phase differed by agency. None of the agencies’ plans consistently covered all aspects of recommended federal guidance. For example, reentry planning documents for 10 or more agencies did not fully address employee training on reentry, office ventilation controls, and face covering requirements, as recommended by federal guidance.

In January 2021, the new administration established the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (Task Force) to provide guidance to agencies and required a 25 percent capacity limit for federal buildings, subject to exceptions with approval. It also issued guidance directing agencies to submit plans addressing a set of model workplace safety principles to the Task Force. Agencies’ workplace safety plans, in contrast to initial reentry plans, were generally consistent with the updated federal guidance. Agencies’ plans cited most safety principles described in the guidance, including the occupancy limit and additional safety measures to protect the workforce, such as face mask requirements and optimized ventilation and air filtration. Agencies also established COVID-19 coordination teams, as required by January 2021 guidance. These teams developed and monitored agency plans, led decision-making regarding safety procedures and exceptions, and coordinated with external groups, including the Task Force.

Federal oversight and coordination were limited for 2020 reentry planning but increased under 2021 guidance related to workplace safety. Initial reentry guidance did not include clear oversight roles and responsibilities. As a result, there was no government-wide oversight or review of initial agency reentry plans. Guidance issued in January 2021 established model safety principles and specific roles for the Task Force, directing Task Force members to guide and oversee agency COVID-19 workplace safety efforts. This increased clarity and oversight and supported consistency in workplace safety planning. The Task Force also used approaches to coordinate workplace safety planning that GAO previously identified as beneficial to support and sustain effective interagency collaboration. For example, the Task Force is made up of relevant participants, including agencies with expertise in health, emergency response, and employee safety. The Task Force supported agencies’ COVID-19 response efforts and contributed input to agency workplace safety plans. Updated guidance released in June 2021 indicates that the Task Force and its members plan to continue these oversight and coordination efforts for continued workplace safety and updated reentry planning.

Why GAO Did This Study

The federal government employs approximately 2.8 million civilian workers, a workforce that plays an important role in maintaining vital government services. The White House, OMB, and other cognizant agencies issued guidance to support federal agencies as they developed tailored plans for bringing the federal workforce back to offices and safely conducting on-site work.

The CARES Act included a provision for GAO to monitor and oversee the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report (1) examines agencies’ approaches to initial reentry planning, (2) assesses the extent to which agencies’ workplace safety plans are consistent with federal guidance, and (3) examines the coordination and oversight of federal reentry and workplace safety planning across the government. GAO analyzed federal guidance from cognizant agencies to identify crosscutting themes for reentry planning, and reviewed OMB guidance on workplace safety principles. GAO assessed workplace safety plans, reentry plans, and relevant documentation from the 24 CFO Act agencies against the themes and principles identified in guidance and interviewed agency officials. GAO also reviewed guidance to identify oversight and coordination responsibilities and reviewed prior GAO work on pandemic preparedness and interagency collaboration.

For more information, contact Michelle B. Rosenberg at (202) 512-6806 or rosenbergm@gao.gov.

More from:

News Network

  • ISIS Militants Charged With Deaths Of Americans In Syria
    In Crime News
    Two militant fighters for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a foreign terrorist organization, are expected to arrive in the United States today in FBI custody on charges related to their participation in a brutal hostage-taking scheme that resulted in the deaths of four American citizens, as well as the deaths of British and Japanese nationals, in Syria.
    [Read More…]
  • Joint Statement on the Occasion of a Trilateral Discussion among Afghanistan, Tajikistan and the United States
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Statement by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland on Earth Day
    In Crime News
    On April 22, 1970, millions of people across America came together and sparked a movement that led to the enactment of many of our nation’s foundational environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act.
    [Read More…]
  • Military Airlift: DOD Needs to Take Steps to Manage Workload Distributed to the Civil Reserve Air Fleet
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO FoundDOD exceeded the flying hours needed to meet military training requirements for fiscal years 2002 through 2010 because of increased operational requirements associated with Afghanistan and Iraq; however it does not know whether it used Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) participants to the maximum extent practicable. DOD guidance requires it to meet training requirements and to use commercial transportation to the "maximum extent practicable." During fiscal years 2002 through 2010, DOD flew its fleet more than needed to train its crews, although its flying has more closely matched its training needs in recent years. DOD has also used CRAF participants extensively to supplement military airlift. Although DOD has taken steps to make more airlift business available to CRAF participants, officials said that overseas operations have provided enough missions to support both training and CRAF business obligations. However, with the drawdown in Afghanistan, DOD officials expect the need for airlift to decline by at least 66 percent--to pre-September 2001 levels--reducing both training hours available for DOD and business opportunities for CRAF. DOD does not use its process for monitoring flying hours to determine when it will exceed required training hours and allocate eligible airlift missions to CRAF participants. Therefore, it cannot determine whether it is using CRAF to the maximum extent practicable. As a result, DOD may be using its military fleet more than necessary--which officials say is less economical--while risking reduced CRAF participation.DOD provided several reasons for restricting commercial carriers from transporting partial plane loads of cargo over channel routes, including the need to promote efficiency, meet its military airlift training requirements, and fulfill peacetime business obligations to CRAF participants. Channel route missions are regularly scheduled airlift missions used to transport cargo and provide aircrew training time. These missions also help DOD provide business to CRAF participants. According to U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) officials, DOD generally requires aircraft conducting channel route missions to be completely full of cargo before takeoff. The policy restricting carriers from flying partial loads over channel routes allows DOD to consolidate cargo previously flown by commercial carriers in less than full plane loads and redirect that cargo into the channel route system, where it will be transported by either commercial or military aircraft as part of a full plane load mission. According to DOD, consolidating cargo into full loads flown over the channel route system has increased both the efficiency of these missions and the availability of missions that DOD uses to train its crews and fulfill its business obligations to CRAF.It is unclear whether the planned size of CRAF will be adequate to meet future airlift requirements. DOD last established its future requirements based on the wartime scenarios in the Mobility Capability Requirements Study 2016, issued in 2010. However, due to changing military strategy and priorities, the 2010 study does not reflect current mission needs. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 requires DOD to conduct a new mobility capabilities and requirements study. DOD has not begun this study or finalized its ongoing reviews of the CRAF program's ability to support future requirements. Once they are finalized, these studies should allow DOD to better understand future requirements for CRAF and whether the CRAF program will meet future airlift requirements.Why GAO Did This StudyTo move passengers and cargo, DOD supplements its military aircraft with cargo and passenger aircraft from volunteer commercial carriers participating in the CRAF program. Participating carriers commit their aircraft to support a range of military operations in exchange for peacetime business. A House Armed Services Committee mandated GAO to report on matters related to the CRAF program. GAO assessed whether DOD (1) met its military airlift training requirements while also using CRAF participants to the maximum extent practicable, (2) provided justification for restricting commercial carriers from transporting partial plane loads of cargo over certain routes, and (3) has established future requirements for CRAF and how the planned size of CRAF compares to those requirements. GAO reviewed guidance and policies pertaining to the program, flying hour data, and DOD-sponsored CRAF study reports. GAO also interviewed DOD and industry officials.
    [Read More…]
  • Alice man admits to distributing meth
    In Justice News
    A 29-year-old local [Read More…]
  • Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco Gives Keynote Address at ABA’s 36th National Institute on White Collar Crime
    In Crime News
    More from: October 28, [Read More…]
  • 40 Charged in Largest Federal Racketeering Conspiracy in South Carolina History
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury has returned a 147-count superseding indictment against 40 defendants across South Carolina in the largest federal racketeering conspiracy in South Carolina history.
    [Read More…]
  • The Launch Is Approaching for NASA’s Next Mars Rover, Perseverance
    In Space
    The Red Planet’s [Read More…]
  • Elliott Broidy Pleads Guilty for Back-Channel Lobbying Campaign to Drop 1MDB Investigation and Remove a Chinese Foreign National
    In Crime News
    Elliott Broidy, 63, of Beverly Hills, California, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
    [Read More…]
  • Presidential Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives Releases Status Report
    In Crime News
    The Presidential Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) today released a status report detailing accomplishments during its first year and outlining its strategy for the next 12 months. The President’s Executive Order (E.O.) 13898, set forth a range of tasks to be completed over the two-year life of the Task Force, with required reports at the end of each year. Attorney General William P. Barr and Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt transmitted the status report to President Trump, and notably characterized these accomplishments as, “a productive first year of Task Force operations.”
    [Read More…]
  • Minnesota Man Charged with Providing Material Support to ISIS
    In Crime News
    Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers and U.S. Attorney Erica H. MacDonald for the District of Minnesota today announced that Abdelhamid Al-Madioum, 23, of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, has been charged by indictment with providing material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization.
    [Read More…]
  • K-12 Education: Observations on States’ School Improvement Efforts
    In U.S GAO News
    Many states use flexibilities in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended, in identifying low-performing schools and student subgroups (e.g., students from major racial and ethnic groups and low-income students) that need support and improvement. For example, states must identify all public high schools failing to graduate at least one-third of their students. According to GAO's state plan analysis, four states used ESEA's flexibilities to set higher graduation rates (i.e., 70-86 percent) for purposes of state accountability. Similarly, while ESEA requires states to identify schools in which students in certain subgroups are consistently underperforming, 12 states assess the performance of additional student subgroups. Although states are generally required to set aside a portion of their federal education funding for school improvement activities (see figure), states have some discretion in how they allocate these funds to school districts. According to GAO's survey, 27 states use a formula to allocate funds. GAO also found that in at least 34 states, all school districts that applied for federal funds received them in school year 2018-2019, but states had discretion regarding which schools within those districts to fund and at what level. Funding for School Improvement through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Title I, Part A Note: For more details, see figure 2 in GAO-21-199. A majority of the 50 states and the District of Columbia responding to our survey reported having at least moderate capacity to support school districts' school improvement activities. Education provides various types of technical assistance to build local and state capacity such as webinars, in-person training, guidance, and peer networks. About one-half of states responding to GAO's survey sought at least one type of technical assistance from Education's program office and various initiatives, and almost all of those found it helpful. For example, Education's Regional Educational Laboratories (REL) help states use data and evidence, access high-quality research to inform decisions, identify opportunities to conduct original research, and track progress over time using high-quality data and methods. Several states most commonly reported finding the following assistance by RELs to be helpful: in-person training (26), webinars (28), and reviews of existing research studies to help select interventions (24). The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) requires states to have statewide accountability systems to help provide all children significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, and to close educational achievement gaps high-quality education. These systems must meet certain federal requirements, but states have some discretion in how they design them. For example, ESEA requires states to identify low-performing schools and student subgroups for support and improvement. Senate Report 115-289 accompanying the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2019, includes a provision for GAO to review states' school improvement activities. This report addresses (1) how states identify and allocate funds for schools identified for support and improvement; and (2) the extent to which states have capacity to support districts' school improvement activities and how helpful states find Education's technical assistance. GAO analyzed the most current approved state accountability plans from all 50 states and the District of Columbia as of September 2020. The information in these plans predates the COVID-19 pandemic and represents a baseline from which to compare school improvement activities going forward. GAO also surveyed and received responses from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. GAO also conducted follow-up interviews with officials in three states selected based on variation in reported capacity and geographic diversity. For more information, contact Jacqueline M. Nowicki at (617) 788-0580 or nowickij@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Global Entry for UK Citizens
    In Travel
    How to Apply for Global [Read More…]
  • Michigan Insurance Salesman Indicted for Tax and Bankruptcy Fraud
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in Detroit, Michigan, returned an indictment charging a Michigan man with filing false tax returns, making false statements to a bankruptcy court, and making a false statement to the Department of Justice.
    [Read More…]
  • 2019 Wiretap Report: Orders and Convictions Increase
    In U.S Courts
    Federal and state courts reported a combined 10 percent increase in authorized wiretaps in 2019, compared with 2018, according to the Judiciary’s 2019 Wiretap Report. Convictions in cases involving electronic surveillance also increased.
    [Read More…]
  • Designation of Chinese Communist Party Official Due to Involvement in Gross Violations of Human Rights
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • State Department Collaboration with Welcome.US
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Immigration Detention: ICE Efforts to Address COVID-19 in Detention Facilities
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found To guide immigration detention facilities' response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) developed the COVID-19 Pandemic Response Requirements. These protocols address facility intake processing, screening and testing, and social distancing, among other requirements. According to officials from six selected facilities, these requirements were routinely implemented. However, some reported that quarantine of detainees was difficult at times due to infrastructure limitations, and detainee compliance with mask wearing was an ongoing challenge. As of March 2021, individual facilities were generally responsible for working directly with state and local health authorities to administer COVID-19 vaccines to detainees. Number of Reported COVID-19 Cases among Detainees in ICE Detention Facilities To oversee detention facilities' management of COVID-19, ICE administers a recurring survey to assess their implementation of the Pandemic Response Requirements. According to ICE, field officials review the survey responses and follow up with facilities on areas requiring attention. Officials told GAO the survey helped identify areas of potential noncompliance, but also noted some challenges, such as a lack of on-site facility monitoring to validate responses. In December 2020, ICE revised the survey to obtain more information on facilities' adherence to requirements and implemented an on-site compliance check. As of March 2021, officials reported three monthly surveys were completed, plans for corrective actions were initiated at 11 facilities, and they plan to review survey data more systematically for trends. ICE identifies and tracks COVID-19 cases among detainees in its custody as well as those detainees determined to be at high-risk for severe illness due to COVID-19. In calendar year 2020, ICE tested 80,200 detainees for COVID-19, identified 8,622 positive cases (10.8 percent), and recorded eight deaths. ICE further identified 14,729 high-risk detainees in its custody nationwide among whom 528 (3.6 percent) tested positive for COVID-19. Why GAO Did This Study Detention facilities can present a challenging environment to manage the risk of transmission of infectious diseases, including COVID-19. ICE, within the Department of Homeland Security, is the lead federal agency responsible for providing safe, secure, and humane confinement for detained individuals of foreign nationality while they wait for resolution of their immigration cases, or removal from the United States. As of March 2021, ICE confirmed over 10,000 cases of COVID-19 among detainees within its detention facilities nationwide and recorded eight deaths. This report examines: (1) ICE's policies and procedures for responding to COVID-19 in immigration detention facilities and how they were implemented at select facilities; (2) ICE's mechanisms for conducting oversight of COVID-19 related health and safety measures; and (3) ICE's data on COVID-19 cases and identified high-risk health factors among detainees. GAO interviewed officials in ICE headquarters and from a non-generalizable sample of six ICE detention facilities selected on the basis of geographic location, facility type, and average population. GAO reviewed ICE's Pandemic Response Requirements for detention facilities and oversight mechanisms, and analyzed ICE data on COVID-19 cases and high-risk detainees in its custody between January 2020 and March 2021. For more information, contact Rebecca Gambler at (202) 512-8777 or gamblerr@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Former Rapides Parish Correctional Officer Sentenced for Violating the Civil Rights of Three Inmates
    In Crime News
    A former correctional officer with the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office (RPSO), Detention Center 1, in Alexandria, Louisiana, was sentenced today in federal court for violating the civil rights of three inmates in his custody.
    [Read More…]
  • Department Press Briefing – December 6, 2021
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Ned Price, Department [Read More…]

Crime

Network News © 2005 Area.Control.Network™ All rights reserved.