OPM's John Berry: President's Day holiday not cancelled
Monday's President's Day federal holiday will not be canceled, Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry said Thursday during a washingtonpost.com live chat.
Berry also said he does not consult President Obama on his decisions to close D.C.-area offices and that easy access to e-mail and the Internet means OPM will have to reconsider its estimate that taxpayers lose roughly $100 million per day in lost productivity from federal workers stuck at home due to the weather.
Read highlights from the chat below:
Washington, D.C.: 2 questions:
1) Will the federal government be open on Friday?
2) Why in the world can a decision not be made earlier in the day? Most of us could predict the decisions for most of the past 4 days, without waiting til 7 p.m. every day.
John Berry: We have scheduled a Council of Government call for 6 p.m this evening where we will get the most information for tomorrow.
We've already moved it (COG call) from 4 a.m. to 6 p.m. We're making it already the night before. We've attempted to provide a quicker decision by holding the calls at 6 p.m. rather than 4 a.m. and any earlier than that the information is not as accurate as necessary.
Snowbound in Alexandria, Va.: How is the productivity cost calculated? Does OPM have this information on their website? If not, can it be published online?
John Berry: The number that is used currently is woefully out of date and does not reflect emergency personnel, essential personnel, or teleworking employees and therefor overstates cost of government closure. When we are clear of the storm we will be updating this calculation and will certainly put that on our Web site for both comments and distribution.
Rockville, Md.: I would have telecommuted the past four days and got lots of work done but my agency requires that you work for a full year before you can telecommute. In my last position in state government, I telecommuted almost exclusively for three years. Why the arbitrary one year requirement? (my agency is BPHC in HHS).
John Berry: We, OPM, has no one-year requirement and I hope that after this experience your agency will appreciate the importance value, productivity allowing as many workers as possible to telework without arbitrary restrictions such as a one-year delay.
Annapolis, Md.: Mr. Berry I want to commend you decision to allow federal workers to stay home over the duration of the two storms. You can make up for lost time but not lost lives.
How does Metro closing above ground affect your decision on the status of the federal government?
John Berry: It is one of the important factors but not the only factor. It definitely impacts the ability for people to commute and so it is certainly part of the decision equation.
Anonymous: Is President Obama consulted when you make the decision to close the government?
John Berry: No.
Trevor, Wisc.: Were employees encouraged to take their computers home so they could telework?
John Berry: Yes, and in fact, one of the lessons learned from the snowstorm is that we need to encourage agencies to acquire more portable, modern computers that will make it easier and more secure to work from home.
Annapolis, Md.: Will the federal government take away the President's Day holiday on Monday due to this week's closings?
John Berry: No.
Detroit, Mich.: It's interesting to learn more about how the call to close the government is made in your office. Would your office (and thus you) also make the call for federal offices in other cities or is that role delegated to someone local?
John Berry: Great question. It is delegated to local groups called the Federal Executive Boards and each major city has one. The represent the federal agencies in those areas and they are empowered to make the call in those areas.
Germantown, Md.: As in 1955, will furloughs be put in place to cover the costs of the government shut down during the snowstorm?
John Berry: No.
Tysons Corner, Va.: When the government is closed, do employees have access to the buildings (as they do on the weekends) so that they can pick stuff up to work on over the weekend? While I admittedly have enjoyed the past few days, I know that it means late nights next week.
John Berry: They need to check with their agency. Each agency has different security rules so before you try to come in please check with your local agency to make sure you have access.
Read the full chat here and leave your thoughts in the comments section below
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