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To ensure that essential government services are available in emergencies, federal agencies are required to develop continuity of operations (COOP) plans. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is responsible for providing guidance to agencies on developing such plans. Its guidance states that in their continuity planning, agencies should consider the use of telework--that is, work performed at an employee's home or at a work location other than a traditional office. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) recently reported that 43 agencies have identified staff eligible to telework, and that more than 140,000 federal employees used telework in 2004. OPM also reported that many government operations can be carried out in emergencies using telework. For example, telework appears to be an effective strategy for responding to a pandemic--a global outbreak of disease that spreads easily from person to person and causes serious illness and death worldwide. In previous work, GAO identified steps that agencies should take to effectively use telework during an emergency. GAO was asked to testify on how agencies are addressing the use of telework in their continuity planning, which is among the topics discussed in a report being released today (GAO-06-713).

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