Thousands of people are moving to Ft. Meade, Maryland, including 4,600 from the Defense Information Systems Agency. Jack Penkoske; Director of Manpower, Personnel, and Security told Federal News Radio DISA already has the pieces in place to make the commute electronically, through telework.
“Just about all of our computers are the laptops with the docking station so employees can take it home,” said Penkoske. “We have a requirement for our regular teleworkers that they have to take their computer home every night as well. Because, particularly if you have an emergency, you’re not going to know about that emergency the night before.”
The problem with standing up telework at DISA, said Penkoske, was not that there was pushback from managers. In fact, he said employees would tell him they wanted to telework and their supervisors wanted them to as well, but, they would tell him, “I have to be on the classified network all the time, or almost all the time.”
So DISA has built a unique telework center in Woodbridge that provides secure access to that network. Employees using the telework center have thin client computers connected directly to the agency’s classified network. They have access to all their files and information on the classified network as they would if they were at DISA headquarters.
Penkoske is clearly proud of his agency’s achivement. “As far as we know, at least we haven’t heard otherwise, it may be the first one of its kind in the federal government. We know it’s the first of its kind in the Department of Defense,” he said.
“It can accommodate 14 employees a day and since employees don’t telework 100 percent of the time, you can get quite a few employees into that on a weekly basis.” The center, he added, is not being used to 100 percent capacity yet, but Penkoske said he expects people to be “almost waiting in line” to use the facility by the time the move is complete at the end of the summer.
For now, DISA has no plans to build additional telework centers, but Penkoske said the agency is watching the use of telework by employees. “We’re just going to have to wait and see. It’s relatively expensive to do. We would just have to make sure that we had a market, or enough employees to put it in there.” He said he expects to see a trend in increasing the number of days a week employees telework based on the increased commute for employees to Ft. Meade and the rising gas prices.
In the end, said Penkoske, “I’d like to see the day that we get away from even using the word ‘telework’ and just call it work, because it is work. It’s just work in a different place.”
Assuming managers use good performance standards, it’s working, he said. “It’s just at a different location.”