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OPM chief John Berry defends Friday work decision

By Ed O'Keefe

Despite a difficult Friday commute for many federal workers, Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry defended his decision to keep federal offices open Friday, saying safety and government operations are the only factors he considers when making such decisions.

“The decision is never based on 100 percent perfection,” Berry said in an interview Friday afternoon. “It’s can you operate safely.”

Berry delayed the opening of Washington area offices by two hours, and he allowed federal workers to take unscheduled leave if they preferred. The government had been closed for four full days this week due to heavy snows, and it shut down early Friday so workers could beat the bad weather. It will also be closed Monday for Washington's Birthday.

Several Federal Eye readers decried Berry's decision after suffering through lengthy and, in some cases, unsafe commutes on Friday. They said the area was far from prepared for the influx of federal workers, with the region's transit network still hampered by the snowfall.

Berry bases his decision to open or close offices on recommendations from members of the Metropolitan Council of Governments, a regional organization. It includes representatives of 21 local governments and the District of Columbia, transportation officials from the District, Maryland and Virginia, and area members of the Maryland and Virginia legislatures, the U.S. Senate, and the U.S. House of Representatives.

The group has held a daily conference call around 6 p.m. this week to discuss whether federal offices can safely open the next day. COG members unanimously agreed that commuters could anticipate safe commutes to work on Friday if Berry decided to implement a two-hour delay and unscheduled leave, the director said.

The members believed such a decision would give workers the option of staying home if commutes were considered too unsafe.

“Convenience does not factor into this decision,” Berry said. “I knew this would be an ugly commute. But there are many ugly commutes in this region, on rainy days and for other reasons.”

The region’s daily commute is already hampered by an aging public transit system, he said.

Berry incorrectly claimed during the interview that all local and state governments also decided to open or institute an unscheduled leave policy on Friday. But Alexandria, St. Mary's County and Frederick County remained closed on Friday, according to The Post's closings page.

Berry also said he faced no outside political pressure to open federal offices Friday after they had been closed all week.

“No politics. No pressure. Nobody was calling me,” he said.

OPM estimates that a Washington area federal snow day costs taxpayers $100 million in lost productivity. But in order to recalculate that estimate, the agency plans to ask federal agencies for information on how many workers teleworked this week during the storm, Berry said.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | February 12, 2010; 3:21 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Workplace Issues  
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Next: The Federal Eye on the week in politics and the federal snow days


He based his decision on public pressure....period

Many roads are not plowed, many offices around DC arent plowed, and Metro isnt running anywhere close to 80%

It was a joke he made people go to work today.

Posted by: Bious | February 12, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

I was headed to a client's office between Farragut North and Dupont and it took me more than double the time it normally takes to commute. That was arriving at 11:30 AM and does not even count the Metro derailment as I was driving and less than half a block away from my destination before any delay from emergency vehicles at Farragut.

Posted by: lamaccountant1 | February 12, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Just walk around Columbia Heights or Van Ness and there are STREETS not even close to plowed. Sidewalks all around DC Metro are not passable. It's a joke.

This city wasn't ready for todays commute and an accident occured because of it

I hope you are happy to bow down to political pressure, John.

Posted by: Bious | February 12, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

What a classless jerk Berry is. Another worthless Obama appointee.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | February 12, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Take a day off if you cannot get in. Plain and simple. Everything else is whining because the trip took longer than expected. Boo hoo.

Posted by: Tony-Tony-Tony | February 12, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

If convenience was not a factor, was safety?

Posted by: unsuckdcmetro | February 12, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

I appreciate that people would have liked another day off, but let's not say that OPM/Berry MADE anyone go to work today--the option to use personal leave was available. I fully expected that any of my employees that were unable to make it in due to unplowed neighborhoods and icy conditions would have done the smart thing and stayed home. Some did, some didn't, but the ones that came in had the same attitude I've seen in comments, that they were somehow forced to go to work just because OPM didn't close down Federal offices in DC.

I missed the packed metro stations this morning, but had I seen lines to get through the faregates, I would have opted to take the day off and go back home. Ultimately the decision to factor in your safety for your morning drive/commute is YOURS and no one else's.

Posted by: urbanbohemian | February 12, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Well, now we know: Today's commute was unsafe for many. Berry is lucky no one died in today's Metro derailment, or on the roads. I guess there's always tonight's trip home to roll the dice and see if "inconvenience" or "unsafe" comes up, hm?

Posted by: --sg | February 12, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

He didn't force anyone to come to work. People could take unscheduled leave and I'm sure many did but there does come a time when it's time to go back to work. Metro wasn't at 80% - did 80% of workers come in today?

How many stores and other businesses were closed today?

Posted by: ncbill | February 12, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

I had a great commute into work today. The HOV was practically empty at 0730, parking was available, and my office is half empty.
The decision was left to Federal Government workers if it was safe enough to come to work, as it should be every day. There is no reason for the Fed Gov't to close.
If the Fed Gov't was serious about telework, and serious about continuity of operations, then there would be a better mechanism in place (VPN, Sharepoint websites) for every Fed Gov't worker to be productive via the internet.

Posted by: BH61 | February 12, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

I think Berry made the right call but I don't envy him.

I was happy to get back to work (cabin fever plus a lot to do!) but the roads weren't great. It took me twice as long to get in. I hope major roads are plowed again to open more lanes before next Tuesday, because major thoroughfares like Connecticut Avenue, East-West Highway and Old Georgetown Road have one less lane and that will be a disaster during a full rush hour.

With respect to --sg, the Metro derailment didn't have anything to do with the weather.

Posted by: climategirl | February 12, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

The metro system is wholly unreliable in bad weather and seems to be the first to fail with any bad conditions. One of the problems today was the metro was not running at anywhere near normal capacity. I don't understand why underground stations were not running normally. When that's the case, the system simple cannot handle all of the commuters. Metro should not be able to say that it is operating and OPM should take that into account since they control the biggest chunk of workers.

Posted by: Arlingtonguy | February 12, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

So the government was open for six hours today allegedly to stem the tide of lost productivity this week. Metro's red line is still not servicing above ground stations from Shady Grove to Medical Center. These stations serve many neighborhoods where federal workers live. If they felt compelled to commute to work today, the roads would be even more clogged and dangerous. The temp. is now dropping and for those who braved the narrowed lanes on the Beltway and major thoroughfares in D.C., their ride home will be challenging.

If the govt. were to open midweek with a delayed arrival, that would make sense. This Wednesday brought us the blizzard. This was plainly a bad decision not based on sound economics but on reasons that yet to be revealed.

Posted by: dcgreer | February 12, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

I just saw BH61's comment about telework and had to respond. I can do a lot at home but that requires someone to look after my toddler. And if the federal government is closed, so is day care.

This doesn't mean I don't support telework options - I do! - but people need to recognize that it isn't a complete solution, for those with small children or for service workers (waiters, hairdressers, real estate agents, etc.), to name a few.

Posted by: climategirl | February 12, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

I really liked the, "It was the right decision...and any way it wasn't just my decision...those other guys had something to do with...don't just pick on me," rationale. You stay classy, John.

Posted by: PhilV1 | February 12, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

After four days of unscheduled leave, I honestly think most people wanted to go to work today. But until Metro is upto par and all the streets are plowed, it just isn't feasible to get all Federal/Non-Federal workers into the city.

If this snowstorm has taught me anything, it's that DC is completely reliant on Metro. If it doesn't function at 100%, neither does the city.

Posted by: mortonjr77 | February 12, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the decision to open offices today, even though I knew the Red Line would be horrible.

Let's put the blame for a bad commute where it belongs -- on the state and local governments that do not have the resources to clean up quickly, and on a Metro system that may be becoming unsafe. Hopefully, DC region governments will seriously address the area's transportation shortfalls.

Posted by: dawnforsythe1 | February 12, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Everyone wants to blame someone. If employees had the option to take leave and stay home, yet decided to commute over unplowed or poorly plowed roads, quit whining. You had a choice and you made it. Live with it and get over it. No one was forced by the fedetal government to go to work today. I am sure come Tuesday some of these same whiners will be at it again.

Posted by: Factfinder57 | February 12, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

F********CK you BERRY!

Posted by: Alfy2009 | February 12, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

If you're a federal worker and HAD unscheduled leave to take today, great. If you're a contractor with no leave at all and were told to report to work today (with no 2-hour delay, by the way), then you (and I) came to work, no matter how bad the commute was.

Posted by: postpostmodern | February 12, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Does Berry actually think any work got done today? To call him ignorant would be a compliment.

It's time for him to go.

Posted by: fireball72 | February 12, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Berry's point about not considering the convenience of the commute is one thing, but the derailment proves it wasn't safe to bring workers in. And to the poster who said federal workers were not forced in, no, of course they were not physically forced in, but with all of the offensive comments about federal workers being lazy and entitled this week, I certainly would have gone in. Basically unscheduled leave means come in unless it is impossible or you're caring for your children. I'm not a fed but was very worried about the commute until I got an email from my boss saying I could telework.

Posted by: frankhobbs | February 12, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and thank you to all of the nonessential employees who decided to go in today and helped Metro rape those who actually had to be there.

Posted by: fireball72 | February 12, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Hey, ignorant commenters: - he made NO ONE go to work today. We all had the option of unscheduled leave.

I knew my walk to the metro would be uncomfortable. I could have taken leave. I decided myself to go in.

Get over yourselves and stop whinging.

Posted by: terencef100 | February 12, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

I suggest they start broadcasting these conference calls in the local media so everyone can know how they are run. If the OPM director tells everyone what he wants in the beginning of a call are you going to openly go against him? No politics? Yeah right, good one.

Posted by: Ian-CapitalWeatherGang | February 12, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

oh quit your belly aching I'm a government worker I was glad to get back to work...probably some of these same people complaining because they had to go back to work are the same ones begging for snow! If there is a sham in all this it's the people who telework they get the advantage of working from home but yet when they closed the government they were off as well, they should've been still required to work unlike myself who goes to work everyday...

Posted by: papaskynz | February 12, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Yes, the roads were not 100%, but most of my problem getting into work stemmed from the fact that the drivers were positively awful this morning. If one sees that a lane disappears into a mound of snow, one assumes that even if it does reappear, it will disappear again. And to the woman parked in the non-existent shoulder after the 14th St. Bridge removing snow that had fallen from her roof to her windshield with her bare hands at 9:45 this morning--serves you right! Just what were you doing for the past day and two hours?

Posted by: Tamberg | February 12, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

What a bunch of self-serving and coddled whiners! The rest of the workers in the entire region were not given four paid days off. It takes at LEAST ten times as long for anything substantial to get accomplished in our government as it would in the private sector. Suck it up, put on your snow booties, mittens etc. and get yourselves to work. And when you get there, try working a full 8 hours for a change. I so wish Congress would put a stop to this lazy, tax-payer monies wasting NONSENSE!

Posted by: Okiedokie | February 12, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

I'm unclear about something - is there any regular workday when taking Unscheduled Leave NOT an option? Isn't that what private-sector employees call a "Vacation Day?" Or is it different, where it doesn't count against you?

If it is the equivalent of taking a vacation day, that can be a big problem for families that have to plan the entire year's vacation schedule before the year starts. Saying nobody was forced to go to work today would be like saying nobody is ever forced to go to work - technically true, but not very meaningful.

Posted by: hwestgate | February 12, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

We ALL had the option of unscheduled leave? Not me. I don't work for the government. And my commute was hell because Berry decided the government should be open regardless of whether the infrastructure could handle it.

Posted by: genericgayman | February 12, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

I found my commute by Metro from Chevy Chase to Foggy Bottom this morning to be very much the same as any other day. That said, it appears many people took advantage of liberal leave, so that should have taken some pressure off the system, and the roads. I think Mr. Berry made the right call, as he has all week.

Posted by: igbrownlee | February 12, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

The feds should have remained closed today for 2 reasons:

1. it's not about the dangers of ice/snow covered roads, it's about the lane closures and metro access. There simply aren't the commuting resources available to the public in this major metro area to get to work.

2. 1 day = 4 days. Had they not gone to work today, there would be 3 free days of plowing that our metro area will benefit from before sending everyone back to work. The week was already lost, there was no point to start "chasing bets".

Posted by: kevnet | February 12, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

There are many comments about the metro "obviously" not being safe today, but the fact is that the derailment happened because the driver was trying not to run a red light. Sounds to me like someone wasn't paying attention to his/her driving.

Since this was an underground station, this accident had nothing to do with the weather or the snow on the outside rails.

Commuting is always at your own risk. Decide to stay home if you don't feel it's safe or convenient.

Posted by: newsreader6 | February 12, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Agree with other commenters who say that no one was forced to come in. They could use a personal day if they couldn't get in. We're all adults (well, assume we are). We're all able to assess risk, and decide whether we can get in or not.
Also, the Metro derailment doesn't seem linked whatsoever to the weather, for God's sake.
Berry can't win either way, it seems.

Posted by: huhhh | February 12, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

It's a no-win situation for the OPM Director. He gets lots of flak either way. This is why they created telecommuting. If you're a Fed, all you had to do was take a day of annual leave if telecommuting wasn't an option. If you have 15 years or more of Fed service, you get 8 hours of annual leave every pay period. No huge tragedy. It's a benefit that few private sector employees have. A lot of people have to go to work or they don't get paid. So let them deal with the roads, subway, buses, etc.

Posted by: uncivil | February 12, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

It's always fun to read comments from all of those folks out there who envy us feds. Geez, when I got out of college and went to work for the fed most of my friends thought I was nuts, taking lower pay and all. Plus, all the abuse you can take from people out there who are pretty immature. But, all of that still didn't get the roads plowed or Metro squared away today. As someone noted above, it's only by the grace of God that it wasn't really bad. It's not sexy but the real problem are underfunded local govt's not having enough equipment to do the job. In most cities up north, the snow would have been gone a long time ago and the roads clear, Metro's working, etc. Blaming us feds for that is misdirected. Next time your local govt asks for more money to buy snow gear, maybe you should listen and support them.

Posted by: ideabook | February 12, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

I'm not a federal worker, and I don't think it's fair to ask federal workers to use up their leave days because OPM makes a stupid decision that makes it unsafe for them to get to work.

I'd be mad as hell at a private boss who did that to me, too. For a lot of people, there was no choice, folks.

Posted by: Kathy8 | February 12, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

I hope all the whiners who complained about the Federal government being closed all week had the worst commutes. See what happens when you force all those people back on the roads when the area isn't prepared for them?

Posted by: Madgrrl70 | February 12, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

My organization closed on the day that the snow was falling, to keep our employee's safe. However, they opened the next day (Thursday) with a liberal leave policy. That's cool with me, because I stayed home on Thursday to dig-out. I did the same back on Monday. The good thing is that my organization gave us individually additional personal leave day for Monday. Those who came in, can use any other day of the year. But Wednesday, as the snow was falling, we all got an admin day off. Imagine 4 admin days, where you don't have to use any of your personal leave!! That means that you would still be able to take your planned vacations without sacrificing a single day, had you worked today. It must be nice working for the Federal Government, especially under President Obama's watch. Must be nice!!

Posted by: roallenc | February 12, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

ideabook, my entire family works for the federal government and it is an absolute MYTH that the pay is lower than the private sector. Not only is comparable and in many cases actually higher, but the federal benefits are out-of-this-world good. Three family members are currently working on master's degrees at a local PRIVATE university courtesy of the American tax payer. If they work one minute over 40 hours in a week, they get overtime. For this I do not think it is too much to ask that actual work be done in as efficient a manner as possible considering what the rest of us are paying. Oh and I know it is not too much to ask that we cease with the whining re: having to go to work.

Posted by: Okiedokie | February 12, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

When determining the lost value of closing down the federal workforce in DC, do they balance that against the costs of the above average number of accidents, including both vehicular and personal injury walking on slippery sidewalks, and costs to the environment of all the extra fuel used while sitting in worse than normal traffic? The responsible decision is to close down the government so that emergency vehicles have a clear path on the road.

Liberal (or unscheduled) leave is somewhat of a bogus policy that forces people to use their vacation time when the office should have been closed. People can usually call out in the morning if they have a valid reason to take off, regardless of whether "liberal leave" is in effect or not.

Posted by: wetland68 | February 12, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Boo Hoo!

I wanted another paid day off from work!


It's not fair! I have kids and I live way outside the city! I took a safe, secure job with the federal government 25 miles away and now they're making me use annual leave when I don't come to work because I don't like the snow!!


I'm an ex-fed, and an army veteran, and I'm embarrassed by all this whining. Grow up. And when people who don't work for the government (who don't get paid days off because of weather, or might not even have jobs in this economy) call you out on your selfishness, smile, move on, and DO YOUR JOB!

Posted by: tcal02 | February 12, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

I had no problem with the Feds opening today. It was a personal decision for every commuter to decide if they could make it safely to work or not. My problem was that since "most" of the major arteries were plowed and passable doesn't mean that workers could "actually" get to those main arteries. Some supervisors had a problem understanding this.

Posted by: yolanda_hampton | February 12, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Not everyone can make it to work in bad weather or after a big storm, but that is one reason that you have leave. If you don't have a good method for getting to work on a day like this , stay home. If you can make it to work safely, go to work. Haven't people been in this situation before? Is everyone in their first year of work?

Posted by: annegreen | February 12, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

where is the mail??

Posted by: annevalentine | February 12, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

I consider that the roads I have driven on in the last two days are in excellent condition considering the amount of snow that fell. That said, it was obvious that if most people tried to go to work today that the system would not be able to handle it.

Posted by: pessimist46 | February 12, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

240,000 "Non-Essential DC Federal Workers" stayed home this week .... Sounds like a good number to start culling the herd and reducing the waste! I mean, if you're "non-essential" you are NON-ESSENTIAL!

Posted by: mjapr | February 12, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

The answer to the issue of lost productivity during snow days is - TELECOMMUTING! OPM should demand - not timidly encourage - that virtually every Federal office worker be equipped to work from home.

Posted by: laSerenissima2003 | February 12, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Yes, my choice. If I'd thought it was unsafe, I'd have stayed home. But it turned out to be less safe that I expected.
I got stuck once and was grateful that I'd brought my snow shovel or my car might still be there! Then there was the 10 inches of slush that I new would require a running start approaching Leesburg Pike from Old Gallows Road - without the headway I'd have been stuck again! Unsafe? Well I was at least uncomfortable. And that's not Mr. Berry's fault, it's VDOT's.
My normal 30-minute, 12-mile commute took an hour and 40 minutes. Time well spent since the leave I chose not to use can now be used for its intended purpose instead of for my safety or convenience.
I'll see all you fellow commuters for the return trip home, confident that it will be equally as memorable as this morning. I promise to be patient and enjoy the weather.
By Tuesday, I hope that mother nature will have done what VDOT failed to do once during or after THE LAST THREE SNOWSTORMS - plow my street!
Here's the bottom line: local governments are simply unable to deal with storms of this magnitude. In my estimation, they could have done nothing, saved a lot of money and gotten very little more criticism. Mr. Berry and his conferees wouldn't have needed that conference call to make such a silly decision.
I wonder if the mailman needed help getting his mail truck moving again today, and if anyone was around the neighborhood to help.

Posted by: dennis98 | February 12, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

John Berry is either an idiot or a liar. The Metro certainly wasn't prepared for the influx of thousands of federal workers, nor were our roads. I'll bet he doesn't take the Metro and is probably carried to and from work on the backs of the little federal workers. I'm in the military and when OPM says the federal government is open, we don't have a choice to take a personal day unlike our civlian government employees.

Posted by: kcdi78 | February 12, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

For big strong Army vet tcal02: Why do you make all those BOOs and WAHs? Is that what you learned in your service to our country! I know you must be a better man that most - I learned that if you can't say something nice, you should keep your opinions private and your yap shut!

Posted by: dennis98 | February 12, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Please stop whining! You all should be ashamed of yourselves. Those of us who had to work all week have something to whine about. I only get paid when I come to work.
I would have loved to have a week off with pay. You all just wanted a 10 and a half day stretch off and going in to work Friday messed that up. Boo Hoo
Grow up and get over it! Find something legitimate to complain about.

Posted by: koja | February 12, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

To tca102:

Wow, I wish I would have said that!!!

Posted by: dmedman50 | February 12, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

People were able to get to the grocery store today if not yesterday -- and I live in an area where residential streets have not been plowed. Governtment workers could take unscheduled leave if they couldn't get to the office. Sometimes life is more difficult than people want it to be but no one was required to get out if they wantede to stay home. But if they still think this is too much to expect for their job, step aside so that those of us willing to work can have those jobs -- and we'll show up happily.

Posted by: GlenSea | February 12, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

He will have to live with those deaths and injuries.

Posted by: hlipow | February 12, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

I am a new fed: new to DC, and new to snow. I am not lazy. I busted my butt to get a PhD and now I work lots of unreported extra hours learning how to do my first professional job. I strongly suspect these uncompensated extra hours exceed the free time I was given this week, which is fine. But, I was absolutely appalled by what passes for "safe" around here and appalled that we have received a defense of the decision to open, rather than an apology to the commuting public. The part that really gets me worked up is how little we stood to gain by opening today, given the 4 days we were snowed in, the holiday weekend ahead, and the stories we all had to tell. Public sector, private sector, anywhere: today was a recipe for low productivity, plain and simple. I just can't see how the benefits of opening for 6 hours on a day like this could justify the costs.

Posted by: blueeyedrose | February 12, 2010 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Today was a man-made disaster, not a natural one. I grew up in Cleveland and, as "ideabook" says, under the same conditions, everything would have been running smoothly today. As for those local transportation officials who supposedly assured John Berry that they were prepared for the reopening of the federal government, why would anyone pay the slightest attention to those idiots?

Posted by: lydgate | February 12, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if those "guys" that gave the green light for us to come into DC can be prosecuted for the death of that one person on 95. The lack of backbone to not have made the right choice and resist preassure has created an outright nightmware for us all.

"I" trusted the decision of OPM to be the right one, and trusted the leadership to have made such a decision with their understanding that it was safe enough. CLEARLY John Berry is a moron of a manager, who has needlessly endangered us all.

Posted by: rtovar911 | February 12, 2010 6:22 PM | Report abuse

I try not to side with the whinners out there, and there are millions of them but the reality of today's commute was that you wouldnt know where the trouble spots were until you encountered them...And thats the issue for people to be pissed about...if GW parkway is supposed to be 2 lanes in each direction, then one would expect it to be plowed to two lanes and not the in-and-out laning that is still there tonight...same with Rt7 from Tysons to Alexandria...if you announce govt open then the understanding is that roads should be ready for traffic...How would i know sitting in my home in bethesda what the condition of rt7 would be until i had the pleasure of dealing with it insitu this morning and tonight?

Posted by: ABethesda | February 12, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Damned if you do and damned if you don't!

Before today all the carping was about wimpy federal gov't/federal workers. Now because the commute in after a once in a century snow accumulation was tough, the federal gov't should have stayed closed.

And, somehow an Obama appointee is the problem?

We have become a nation of whiners and blamers. Man up! Life has plenty of challenges and inconveniences. If this week is the worst you have to face, count yourself lucky.

I think this column has a snarky undertone and encourages negative comments about the government and federal workers. Knock it off!

Posted by: ponderer | February 12, 2010 6:47 PM | Report abuse

The decision is never based on 100 percent perfection,” Berry said in an interview Friday afternoon. “It’s can you operate safely.”

Berry's excuse is above. What nitwit decides to open up the Govt after 90% of the work week is over, and the last day offers up a 4 to 6 hour day, not even a full day. What was he thinking, some roads are clear, most are not...people were injured today, people died today because of his stupid one day 6 hour decision. He was advised by Metropolitan Council of Governments, the usually detailed WaPo reports in the above article. I guess they failed to state it was teh Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, another Democratic led and heavily appointed council with so called "know it alls" that think they are best to make decisions based on whether we work or not during what kind of weather. Dopes! Please, these fools under this administration are not only killing us, they are destroying the fabric of government and it's sensibility.

I love what Our first Black Governor Doug Wilder said two days ago, his observation is below. Also, OPM buffoon call is a great example of his quotes. Doug Wilder's observation is below..

I still believe Obama can stand for positive change. But first he must make some hard changes of his own.

The need is becoming more obvious by the day: He must overhaul his own team, replacing the admittedly brilliant advisers who helped elect him with others more capable of helping him govern. Getting elected and getting things done for the people are two different jobs.

The changes must go much deeper. Obama’s West Wing is filled with people who are in their jobs because of their Chicago connections or because they signed on with Obama early during his presidential campaign.

One problem is that they do not have sufficient experience at governing at the executive branch level. The deeper problem is that they are not listening to the people.

Hearing is one thing; listening is another.

Read more:

Posted by: Fred23 | February 12, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

So what was the total body count of OPM raping WMATA and riders?

Posted by: fireball72 | February 12, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

I would have been happy to go into work today, but Metro's Orange line was not operating above ground west of Ballston according to the Metro website, and there was no Metro bus service to any Metro station from my neighborhood in Vienna. Since the Federal Government ALWAYS wants people to take public transportation into DC on days like today, I was forced to take a day of vacation and stay home. A day I would have rather used this summer to go camping or to the beach. Thanks Director Berry ...

Posted by: Viennacommuter1 | February 12, 2010 7:05 PM | Report abuse

What a bunch of whiners!

After 4 days off Federal employees all got compensated for up to 2 extra hours getting to work, and anyone who wasn't happy with that was still free to just use their leave. That's a heck of a lot better deal than a lot of workers in the private sector got.

Those who object to this decision have exactly one reason for complaining: you wanted another paid day off. Well guess what sometimes getting your work done actually matters and you need to buck up and make it happen somehow -- you had over 4 days to figure out how. Or maybe getting your work done doesn't matter, in which case why should the taxpayers be forced to pay your sorry bloated buttocks for another day off anyways?

Posted by: afpre42 | February 12, 2010 7:09 PM | Report abuse

So what was the total body count of OPM raping WMATA and riders?

Posted by: fireball72

We all understand that you wanted some federal workers to die today, and are disappointed that none did. Your comrade in arms, Timothy McVeigh, is sad too. Oh well.

Even though none died, many thousands of people, most of them NOT federal workers, had to put up with a transportation system that was not ready for them. Would you like every one of them to pay a visit to your house and have you explain your position? Be a man and post your name and address.

Or you could shut up and admit what a cowardly little punk you are. Pick one, byotch.

Posted by: bigbrother1 | February 12, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

"Berry bases his decision to open or close offices on recommendations from members of the Metropolitan Council of Governments"

Maybe Berry should have looked out the window.

. . . a stupid symbolic gesture to appease the mouth-breathing anti-government crowd.

Guess what dude - you'll never placate those morons.

Posted by: palmtree2001 | February 12, 2010 7:34 PM | Report abuse

The OPM Director's "defense" of his likely politically motivated decision to open the Government on the Friday before a 3 day weekend is disturbing at best. Energy costs aside, the facts that Metro was not functioning at its compromised best, that streets were not plowed, and that schools were closed, underscore the folly of declaring the agencies "open." Also, generally unaddressed in consideration of impaired roads, snowladen sidewalks, and non-functioning public transportation, is consideration of disabled employees. For them, as with others, "liberal leave" is forced leave. That is just not right. The "choice" Mr. Berry lauds is for employees to deplete leave and/or forfeit pay in order to choose safety and health. Where was the consideration of safety of the work force by OPM? Likely it was sacrificed for the sake of appearance to voters outside the Metro DC area. Now there is yet another reason to be disappointed in an administration that represented itself as both having empathy for workers and valuing the federal employees. Mr. Berry's "defense" does not bode well for the federal work force and the changes he has indicated he wants to bring to the structure of federal employment. Trust has been compromised and needs to be restored. Without Mr. Berry's willingness to reflect on the dubious nature of his largesse in "offering" liberal leave usage in the circumstances of this storm, there will likely be storms ahead in foisting changes upon a justifiably distrustful work force.

Posted by: Truth27 | February 12, 2010 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I forgot about the 15th off, so yeah, I see folks wanted 10 days off in a row. And if they were willing to use their leave, they got it. Otherwise, they worked a total of six hours today and it screwed up the 10 day no workie streak. Boo hoo.

Posted by: Okiedokie | February 12, 2010 7:49 PM | Report abuse

Friday morning was an absolute disaster. I got on 66-E at the RT-50 interchange in Fairfax and it took me 2 hours to get to the beltway. TWO HOURS. Normally, It's under 10 minutes. I got off the beltway exit south back on to 50 and it was clogged for miles. I called work and told them I was taking vacation and took my butt home. I wasn't spending another second in that nonsense.

Posted by: trjuxal | February 12, 2010 7:49 PM | Report abuse

It was a stupid decision. The Washington D.C. area does not mean if some major downtown D.C. roads are passable. The D.C. area extends all the way to southcentral PA, WVA, and almost to Richmond, Va. Thanks, OPM. I had to burn a vacation day because my street is still not passable.

Posted by: jptjptjpt | February 12, 2010 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Berry probably read all the comments from people wee-weed off because the Feds got 4 days off and overreacted. I just laughed as I enjoyed my leave. I guess everyone is happy now that the Feds are back at work.

Posted by: ronjaboy | February 12, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse

Federal workers had a "choice" today, use liberal leave or endure a challenging commute like so many of did. Minus two hour delayed arrival, minus 59-minute rule (The DoD agency that I support gave their workers this), minus 1-2 hour lunch hours a lot frequently enjoy, and how much work actually got done? Considering that today is the Friday before a three-day weekend, government productivity was maybe at 10%.

Posted by: TTeriffic | February 12, 2010 8:12 PM | Report abuse

This was a terrible time to lose 4 days.
For those of us collecting information February is already a short month plus it had a holiday. We needed to come back in today to keep our schedule moving. Some in my office will be working Monday to catch up so our deadlines don't have to slip too much.

Some functions, like handling confidential information can not be done by teleworkers.

If you didn't want to come in then you could use leave. Not that many private employers would give employees 4 days off and not make them take leave. That's very generous indeed.

Posted by: RedBird27 | February 12, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse

What Berry needs to defend is closing the Federal Government for 4 days straight. Everyone is complaning about the roads still covered in snow and the traffic. Well welcome to the ignorance of coddled, high-maintenance, snow wimped DC/VA/MD residents who think that the local governments are supposed to shovel their driveways. I find it hilarious that these same people are the same ones that made it to Tysons Corner and other malls yesterday to shop. If you can drive to the mall, then drive to work and drop your kids off at school!
In the real world - New York, Boston, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Chicago, etc., they do not shutdown - especially public transportaton. Therefore, businesses are not closed for four days and then causing massive congestion when everyone goes back to work for one day.

Posted by: goodnight | February 12, 2010 8:30 PM | Report abuse

I had a sense that something would go wrong this week when John Berry admitted that the lost productivity cost of $100 million per day , while endlessly repeated, was “woefully out of date” but I was more worried by his next statement that “…we will be updating this calculation and will certainly put that on our Web site for both comments and distribution…” (Post Federal Eye, Thursday 2/11).

This sounds like the beginning of a big and costly research project to take into account military, telecommuters, people on annual, sick and other forms of leave, contractors, etc. resulting in a number that will be endlessly debated and will need to be revised upward annually with the CPI and revised again as work patterns change. Thinking about this a little, it is clear, at least to me, that no amount of research can discover this cost to any reasonable degree of certainty, so why undertake this project at all. The number is $BIG. That’s all. And according to Mr. Berry it isn’t used to determine government closings, so why bother. Just $BIG.

As others have noted, things went wrong today when the government opened but the metro and the roads weren’t ready. Private companies followed suit by also opening. It was fortunate that area schools were still closed or the morning rush hour would have morphed into the first 24 hour rush hour. The above ground metro stations that were closed were the park and ride stations and there was very little bus service. The alternative was driving. There were no other alternatives. That’s a no brainer. Thus the long rush hour. That was completely forseeable by almost everybody. Except the director of the OPM.

Mr. Berry, as quoted by Joe Davidson (Washington Post 2/10) said “We need to think about how we can refresh the GS system… That reform would have three elements: performance accountability, pay flexibility and professional training…” Mr. Berry needs to display some performance accountability for himself and OPM. Not only in decisionmaking about closing the government, but also in negotiating Federal Health Benefits, overhauling the FEDVIP vision and dental coverage, reinvigorating the failed Long Term Care Insurance, and in completing the Retirement Systems Modernization Project.

Mr. Berry could also display some performance accountability by putting his answer to Senator Mikulski’s February 2 letter about the Retirement Systems Modernization Project on the OPM web site. See for more details about the letter and how OPM has fumbled this for the past two years.

Posted by: cassandra14 | February 12, 2010 8:30 PM | Report abuse

Some of you who are saying that we could take leave are wrong. I am a civilian instuctor who teaches federal students. How do I call in sick if my students are in the classroom?

Posted by: TheTruthTeller | February 12, 2010 8:31 PM | Report abuse

. I just got home from work. I live in the district six miles from where I work. I would have walked to work, but only 50% of the sidewalks between my home and office are shoveled and in many cases they are made impassable by plowing overflow. My commute by city bus too TWO HOURS this morning, and my commute home took FOUR HOURS. I wish I was exaggerating. OPM's decision to open today was insane - had nothing to do with the ability of the city to function, but rather was a reaction to the idea that four and a half-days is enough. No, the Fed should open when the city can handle the workers, no sooner.

Posted by: bryveg1 | February 12, 2010 8:34 PM | Report abuse

As Mr Berry would say, if you don't like blocked sidewalks, walk with a shovel.

Just bend over and take it.

Posted by: fireball72 | February 12, 2010 8:38 PM | Report abuse

The productivity of the 10% who showed up was 10%. Total productivity: 1%

Was it worth it to rape the transit system for that?

Posted by: fireball72 | February 12, 2010 8:42 PM | Report abuse

I am a manager and looked forward to getting back to work today. There's only so much I can accomplish with my laptop at home even with a network connection.

I trusted the government to make the right decision. I know what I need to get to work but had no way of knowing what lay in store once I got downtown.

The streets were a disaster. Cars were getting stuck in the slush and had to be pushed out by commuters. One street corner on 7th St. SW had snow piles on the curb with no openings to cross so the only option was to climb over a three-foot pile of snow. The sidewalk on D Street SW near L'Enfant was not shoveled at all, forcing pedestrians to walk in the unplowed roadway and compete with slip-sliding vehicles .

I had no way to make an informed decision to take unscheduled leave and I my desire was to be at work.

The decision to open was irresponsible. The streets were unsafe. People could have been injured, even killed. Berry blew it big time.

Posted by: ajlerner1 | February 12, 2010 8:49 PM | Report abuse

An intelligent person would have gotten their rear ends out of bed a lot earlier on a day when it was obviously going to be congested. But of course the dimwits who work downtown would not think of that. Everyone tries to get to work at the same time and there is going to be a traffic jam.

But most of you wouldn't know that three lane roads are now two lane roads because you haven't been out of your house in a week.

Posted by: MKadyman | February 12, 2010 8:53 PM | Report abuse

it was a poor decision, and it's not surprising that we had disastrous rush hours. I commute from Annapolis. It took me 30 minutes to get to the DC border and another 90 minutes to do the last four miles to my office.

Even under the best of conditions, commuting in DC can turn bad. If there's emergency road work or an accident or a broken down or illegally-parked car in the wrong place, you can have massive gridlock. Now, factor in main streets that were missing lanes and unplowed side streets. Let's not forget that many of DC's snow plows are broken. On top of that, add a Metro system with limited service because snow removal had only just begun at some of the outdoor stations. Oh, joy. (The derailment, of course, didn't help matters, but that was not related to the weather.)

All of talk radio has been abuzz for the past few weeks with complaints about the "lazy" federal employees. Of course there was pressure. Who are we kidding here?

Anyone out there in flyover country who wants to call us lazy has never dealt with this much snow at once in a major metropolitan area that's just not equipped to deal with huge back-to-back snowfalls.

Posted by: ediemcgee | February 12, 2010 9:02 PM | Report abuse

A few folks above take this opportunity to bash Berry's decision to open today as reflecting his "worthlessness" as an Obama appointment: Ye of no perspective don't recall that your heroes Reagan, Bush I and II hated government workers, and their OPM directors demanded attendance in terrible weather conditions. Berry's rationale -- safety not inconvenience -- is defensible though stupid for today.

Posted by: palmerpsy | February 12, 2010 9:03 PM | Report abuse

For those of you who had to report every day anyway, sorry about that. You can call us feds whiners if you like, but this is really about public safety. If you think your commute on, oh, Monday or Tuesday was "fun," throw a couple hundred thousand feds onto the not-quite-ready roads and think about what might have happened.

By giving the workers administrative leave, the various governments are promoting everyone's safety, yours included. Just because your employer is so profit-oriented as to be blind to the safety considerations doesn't mean that the government should ignore those considerations.

Posted by: ediemcgee | February 12, 2010 9:08 PM | Report abuse

The roads were dangerous, public transportation was overloaded, and the sidewalks were slippery. Sorry, but the decision to open the federal government was clearly a bad call.

Posted by: richhall23 | February 12, 2010 9:54 PM | Report abuse

I made it to work ok, but my commute home was 3 times longer than normal. I knew it would be bad. Snow has not been cleared to accomodate the normal traffic flow. The afternoon is always harder, because more people are on the roads. The individuals not working or going to school can help the commuters by getting the errands done between the rush hours rather than during rush hour.

Posted by: susie2 | February 12, 2010 10:01 PM | Report abuse

How many chauffeur-driven SUV's did it take to bring Mr. Berry in to work today?

Posted by: replee | February 12, 2010 10:15 PM | Report abuse

I'm a retired Fed, but I think I have a different take on this. Feds could have taken A/L if the going was that bad. After all they had 4 days off.

I know the commute was tough, but you could have avoided the problem completely.

Suck it up and deal with it and stop whining.

Posted by: almelbe | February 12, 2010 10:41 PM | Report abuse

almelbe, you miss the point. People who refused to take leave ruined the day for those who had to work. This was foreseeable.

Posted by: fireball72 | February 12, 2010 11:16 PM | Report abuse

Can the WaPo file a FOIA request to get a recording of, or the minutes from this conference call? Perhaps it's the COG giving Berry bad advice. Wouldn't be the first time COG made a bad call either.

Posted by: vtavgjoe | February 12, 2010 11:20 PM | Report abuse

Egads people, we had four days off! If you couldn't get in to work today you could have 1) worked from home, 2) left two hours late, 3) taken annual leave, or 4) move closer to where you work.

Posted by: tristesse27 | February 12, 2010 11:51 PM | Report abuse

After reading these comments, I have an even lower regard for federal government employees than I did before the storm. Federal employees have had four days off with pay (on the taxpayers' dime), while many, many private-sector employees have managed to get to work. Today, when they're asked to return to work, all they seem to be able to do is whine that conditions weren't ideal. It's hard to avoid the conclusion that their real gripe is that they were deprived of a 4-day weekend (or a 10-day hiatus, depending on your perspective). I'm more convinced than ever that my tax dollars are being wasted by a bunch of malcontents.

Posted by: stratman1 | February 13, 2010 3:26 AM | Report abuse

Don't fault John Berry for the bad commute. Fault WMATA and your local governments. OPM gave more than 12 hours notice that the federal government would be open for business. Yet WMATA was single tracking the Red Line UNDERGROUND at 7:15 a.m., and local governments hadn't made major roads rush-hour ready.

Better questions are why local governments couldn't preposition extra equipment from outside the area earlier and why WMATA couldn't at the very least run better underground. Honestly, it's embarrassing that the nation's capital couldn't be open for business two days after the storm. Let's hope for a better Tuesday.

Posted by: editor14 | February 13, 2010 3:53 AM | Report abuse

What people who are complaining about the "lazy feds" seem to be forgetting is that many non-federal offices follow the federal government, so it wasn't just federal employees returning to the roads, it was the bulk of the individuals who work in DC. I work for a non-profit and we've always followed the federal government. I think it is ridiculous to assume that everyone has extra leave or can work from home. I don't have a job that allows me to work from home, so I guess I'm just out of luck? Berry maintains that his decision was based on safety and keeping the government running. Here's my thing...when you have gridlocked traffic so severe that emergency vehicles can't get through...that's not safe. When you have metro platforms so crowded people could easily get pushed off a platform, that's not safe. When you have gridlocked traffic so bad that cars are running out of gas while idling, that's not safe. Not to mention the fact that individuals with physical disabilities didn't have access to curb cuts and cleared sidewalks in many parts of the city...these are not safe conditions!

Posted by: fedup81 | February 13, 2010 8:29 AM | Report abuse

TheTruthTeller does not seem to fully appreciate the situation as applying to the entire Federal work force. Surprisingly, TheTruthTeller, mentions an inability to "call in sick" and use leave (apparently in regard to OPM authorizing "liberal leave") because TheTruthTeller is a teacher. [BTW, unless ill, sick leave is not to be used.] Annual leave is authorized. TheTruthTeller identifies an issue, however, by essentially asking if the Government is "open" for business, how can you permit yourself not to do the Government's business? That is part of the compromised position in which all dedicated Federal employees are placed when an ill-advised decision to open the Government (when closure is warranted, as it was yesterday) is made. TheTruthTellers students, also, are then placed in jeopardy in regard to safety, health, and the weather.
The OPM Director has dismissed the commuting debacles as an issue of "convenience" when, in fact, it is a serious matter of safety and health. The Federal work force deserves better.

Posted by: Truth27 | February 13, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Looking at the a few of the comments on this board, it's clear that Friday's commute differed greatly among the readers. My morning commute added no time whatsoever. The evening commute took three times longer than it normally takes -- probably because workers exited the city in a non-staggered fashion.

Clearly, D.C. was WAY behind the plowing curve when compared to Montgomery County, and I can say without fear of honest contradiction that D.C. residents (forced to walk in the streets) were placed at risk by the angry traffic squeezed into fewer than the normal number of lanes.

It seems to me that the day would have been spent more productively by allowing another day of concentrated plowing in DC, with help from the suburbs, if available. If more Federal managers took advatage of telework arrangements, the whole thing would be a non-issue.

Posted by: finserra | February 13, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

I suppose I could have taken leave. As a single mother through no fault of my own, however, leave is always in short supply. I had child care, so it made sense to go to work. It's a darned shame I couldn't do it at home, but thems the breaks. The work was in the office and I was elsewhere.

Even while we were off, many of us were checking emails and doing what we could do from home using our government-issue laptops. Many, many of us are professionals and we pride ourselves on doing a good job for less compensation than we'd get in the private sector. Heaven forfend, however, one of those laptops get lost or stolen. We'd never hear the end of the talk about those irresponsible federal employees!

Posted by: ediemcgee | February 13, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

For many people on Friday, it took everything they had to get to work. It took them hours to get to work and hours to get home. They should not have been forced to try such an adventure

It's kind of funny to see so many telling fed employees to take leave and shut up.

I will be sure to remind them to shut up if their bosses strip a full day of their vacation time away from them.

Posted by: Bious | February 13, 2010 10:31 PM | Report abuse

Greetings from (mostly) sunny San Antonio Texas. Reading through all of these comments, most notable is the absence of any mention of an emergency response plan or business continuity plan. Here in the outposts, we are responsible for (not to say we do so perfectly) planning on an all-hazards basis. That was the change a few years after 9/11. At all levels of governments, we are supposed to be ready to continue operations for all hazards. Rather than pillory individuals or organizations, try asking why there is no planning for such events. Because there is clear direction for doing so--presidential directives, etc. Also ask why the crack reporters in DC aren't asking why the governments at all levels are not prepared. Of course it isn't easy--out here in the hinterlands, we find it difficult as well. But we owe ourselves and our communities no less. As a child in the frozen north, we had no snow days--but we were prepared. Not so for those in the DC area. So--prepare! Learn from this event...that's the real work ahead.

Posted by: tecolote1 | February 14, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Our agency actually does have a plan in place for emergencies and long-term shut downs. This emergency plan is more specifically designed for a 9/11 situation in which our work facility may unreachable or unsafe for more than a week's time. We have practiced the drill, have an alternate worksite location identified should we all have to go somewhere else for a long period of time, etc. It was not designed to implement during a back-to-back snowstorm but when it is known that long-term operations (greater than a week or two) are affected. What does need to happen, at least at my agency, is instead of under-the-desk workstations being issued, each employee should be issued a laptop so that it can be taken home when inclement weather is pending. Currently, only about 10% of workstations are laptop version. At my agency, we are not officially allowed to telework from our home computers due to security issues.

Posted by: christineva | February 14, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

As of Friday morning there was an emergency order prohibiting non emergency vehicle use in my neighborbood. Seems the government should have been closed when driving to work was not allowed and transit was shut down.

Posted by: infrederick | February 14, 2010 11:38 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: tcal02:

"Boo Hoo!
I wanted another paid day off from work!
It's not fair! . . ."

I wonder if you'd feel that same way if it were your wife in the ambulance that was stuck in traffic for over 30 minutes because of the gridlock downtown. There were sirens blaring, but no car could get out of its way. They were all gridlocked.

This isn't about convenience or laziness; it is about safety. The city was not ready for the Feds to go back to work in force, period. People like you are the same jerks that insist on coming to the office even when they're sick, like that proves some sort of character! All it really does is burden others because of your oversized ego.

Posted by: gasmonkey | February 16, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

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