House Oversight and Accountability Committee Republicans led by Chairman James Comer, R-Ky. sent letters to 25 Federal agencies this month to conduct oversight on Federal telework and remote work rates and policies – and to get more granular data on telework rates.

In the letter, the lawmakers request information on the level of telework and remote work currently taking place at the agencies and how its impact on performance and service delivery is being tracked.

“The Biden Administration is allowing telework levels far above those that existed pre-pandemic. This is unacceptable and U.S. taxpayers deserve better,” Chairman Comer asserted in a statement. “Federal workers must show up to work in-person and the Oversight Committee will hold agencies accountable when their employees do not show up to work for the American people.”

The letter asks that heads of Federal agencies provide the House Oversight Republican members with data regarding teleworking and remote workers, as well as information on secure remote network capacities, among several other topics, by June 1.

In April, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) asked Federal agencies to increase the amount of in-person work at offices, while also balancing telework as an important retention tool. OMB Director Shalanda Young instructed agencies to develop updated “work environment plans” based on post-pandemic reentry plans.

Rep. Comer voiced his opposition to OMB’s guidance, issuing a statement that criticized the Biden administration’s “prolonged pandemic-era telework.” He said last month, “OMB managed to issue a 19-page memo that shed virtually no light on when Federal employees are returning to their offices – or under what conditions continued elevated levels of telework may be warranted.”

The Office of Personnel Management removed the COVID-19 governmentwide operating status on May 15 – just days after President Joe Biden officially ended the COVID-19 public health emergency – meaning the pandemic will no longer drive how and where Federal employees work.

Rep. Comer has long been an advocate for getting Feds back in the office. In January, the House Oversight leader introduced the SHOW UP Act that would roll back Federal agency telework policies to their year-end 2019 levels, and require agencies to justify any future changes in telework policies through reporting to Congress. The legislation cleared the House in February, and a companion bill was introduced in the Senate earlier this month.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) just this week announced it will bring employees into the office more regularly in the fall, setting a new minimum requirement for in-person work.

VA Secretary Denis McDonough said the agency will require employees on telework agreements in the National Capital Region to report for a minimum of five days in the office each pay period.

“This change will allow us to spend more time in the office together, learning from one another and strengthening our culture while preserving flexibility, something on which VA has always led – and will continue to lead,” McDonough said.

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.