DISA telecommuters can work just fine even with more snow

Virtual private networks and distributed laptops support the majority of the agency's Washington metropolitan area workers.

If snow-covered roads in the Washington metropolitan area continue to frustrate commuting on Tuesday and later this week, the Defense Information Systems Agency's workforce can continue to do its job thanks to a well-established telecommuting operation, a top DISA official said.

During the past three years the agency has equipped about 70 percent of its 4,200 employees in the Washington area with laptop computers and virtual private network connections that allow them to connect to the agency's unclassified networks, said John Garing, director for strategic planning and information at DISA.

The agency developed its telework program for the Washington area about four years ago to maintain its mostly Virginia-based workforce when it consolidates offices in a new headquarters facility at Fort Meade, Md., in October, said Garing during a phone interview. He was speaking from a coffee shop near his home in Prince William County, Va., where he was telecommuting.

Although DISA, like the rest of the federal government, was closed on Monday, Garing said he could see from e-mails that a number of employees had logged on to work during the official snow day.

While some federal employees view telecommuting as new, he said DISA employees take it as a routine part of their work week. Agency workers in the Washington area are allowed to telecommute three days a week, either from home or a telework facility managed by the General Services Administration.

The routine allows DISA's Washington employees to cope with the current and projected snowfall, without exposing themselves to a hazardous commute, Garing said.

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