Agencies need better plans to protect feds in a flu pandemic, GAO says

The flu virus under a powerful microscope. The flu virus under a powerful microscope. CDC photo
Agencies must be more prepared to minimize the harm a pandemic flu outbreak could have on the federal workforce, a Government Accountability Office report said.
 
The GAO report revealed key deficiencies in information sharing among government agencies, which could obstruct a coordinated federal response to a possible outbreak. It also said many agencies had not clearly delineated workers with mission-critical jobs. GAO said more oversight is needed in this area to reduce the risk of exposure for federal workers and to ensure they do not come into the office during an outbreak when they could be telecommuting.
 
The auditors specifically called out problems in the Federal Aviation Administration’s plan to protect air traffic controllers, who could be exposed while on the job. The watchdog said in its report that although FAA had improved since the last report in June 2009, much more could be done.

“FAA has not yet found a viable way to address how onsite air traffic controllers, who work in close proximity to each other, could be separated during an influenza pandemic,” the report said.
 
Since 2008, the Homeland Security Council, part of the president’s executive office, has required agencies to prepare contingency plans in the case of an outbreak of a pandemic flu. These plans are required to address the essential operations of each agency and the employees responsible for them, and then lay out measures to protect federal workers in case they must report to duty. The GAO report inspected the progress that 24 departments and agencies had made in their contingency planning efforts.  

“There is limited oversight of agencies’ progress to protect their employees during a pandemic,” the report said.
 
Still, the auditors did note significant progress had been made since 2009, when GAO criticized government agencies for not having adequate plans for a pandemic flu. The 2009 report was released several months after the outbreak of H1N1 Swine Flu outbreak.

“In particular, almost all or most of the agencies, selected components, and their facilities have completed pandemic plans that address how they would protect employees that were associated with mission essential functions that could not be performed remotely,” the report added.

GAO concluded the report by saying the Homeland Security Department should provide additional guidance and oversight. Officials within DHS told auditors that they were not required to report these additional responsibilities.

“While agencies have reported in 2012 they have made significant progress in planning for protecting workers during an influenza pandemic, additional oversight targeted to those areas in which reported progress is uneven could help focus attention on those areas,” the report said.
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.