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Highlights

As evidenced by the spring 2009 outbreak of the H1N1 virus, an influenza pandemic remains a real threat to the nation and the world and has the potential to shut down work critical to the smooth functioning of society. This testimony addresses (1) the extent to which federal 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. The issues discussed in the testimony are based on the GAO report, Influenza Pandemic: Increased Agency Accountability Could Help Protect Federal Employees Serving the Public in the Event of a Pandemic (GAO-09-404, June 12, 2009). In this report, GAO recommended that the Homeland Security Council (HSC) request that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) monitor and report to the Executive Office of the President on the readiness of agencies to continue operations while protecting their employees in the event of a pandemic. To help carry out its oversight role, the Congress may want to consider requiring a similar report from DHS. The HSC noted that it will give serious consideration to the findings and recommendations in the report, and DHS said the report will contribute to its efforts to ensure government entities are well prepared for what may come next.

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