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Influenza Pandemic: Increased Agency Accountability Could Help Protect Federal Employees Serving the Public in the Event of a Pandemic

GAO-09-404 Published: Jun 12, 2009. Publicly Released: Jun 16, 2009.
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Protecting federal workers essential to ensuring the continuity of the country's critical operations will involve new challenges in the event of a pandemic influenza outbreak. This requested report discusses (1) the extent to which agencies have made pandemic plans to protect workers who cannot work remotely and are not first responders, (2) the pandemic plans selected agencies have for certain occupations performing essential functions other than first response, and (3) the opportunities to improve agencies' workforce pandemic plans. GAO surveyed pandemic coordinators from 24 agencies and selected three case study occupations for review: federal correctional workers, staff disbursing Treasury checks, and air traffic controllers.

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Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
To help support its oversight responsibilities, the Congress may wish to consider requiring Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to report to it on agencies' progress in developing and implementing their pandemic plans, including any key challenges and gaps in the plans.
Closed – Not Implemented
Congress has not required DHS to report to it on agencies progress; as such, this recommendation is being closed as not implemented. In 2011, GAO was requested to review this subject again. The report (GAO-12-748) included a recommendation to DHS.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Homeland Security Council To ensure agencies' greater accountability in developing operational plans that will protect their workforce in the event of a pandemic, the Homeland Security Council (HSC) should request that the Secretary of Homeland Security monitor and report to the Executive Office of the President on the readiness of agencies to continue their operations while protecting their workers during an influenza pandemic. The reporting should include an assessment of the agencies' progress in developing their plans, including any key challenges and gaps in the plans. The request should also establish a specific time frame for reporting on these efforts.
Closed – Not Implemented
The National Security Staff (NSS) advised that they had determined that they will not provide responsive information regarding our recommendation. We have closed this recommendation as unimplemented but note that in 2013 DHS in 2013 revised its guidance to agencies and now addresses this issue in its biennial assessment of agencies' continuity capabilities.

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AccountabilityCheck disbursement or controlContingency operationsContingency plansContinuity of operationsContinuity of operations planCorrectional facilitiesCorrectional personnelData collectionEmergency preparednessEmployeesFederal agenciesFederal employeesFirst respondersHomeland securityInfectious diseasesInfluenzaInformation technologyMonitoringPandemicQuality improvementReporting requirementsRisk managementSafetyStrategic planningSurveysInternal controlsPolicies and procedures