The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) told Federal agencies in a March 20 memo to work with their Federal contractors, “if they haven’t already, to evaluate and maximize telework for contractor employees, wherever possible” during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Numerous members of Congress including Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., have pleaded with OMB last week to set clearer guidelines for telework flexibility for all Federal employees, contractors, and military personnel, with Rep. Connolly pressing for an executive order from the White House.
“The health and safety of all Americans, including our Federal contractors, remains the top priority,” said Margaret Weichert, OMB’s Deputy Director for Management, in the March 20 memo. She said the pandemic leaves many contractors unable to access their Federal work sites because of building closures, quarantines, or social distancing practices.
“Maintaining the resilience of our Federal contracting base . . . requires continued communication by agencies with their contractors, both small and large, and effective leveraging of flexibilities and authorities to help minimize work disruption,” she said. “Telework is an important tool for enabling continued contract performance,” she said.
“Equally important, agencies should be flexible in providing extensions to performance dates if telework or other flexible work solutions, such as virtual work environments, are not possible, or if a contractor is unable to perform in a timely manner due to quarantining, social distancing, or other COVID-19 related interruptions,” the OMB memo says.
“Agencies should take into consideration whether it is beneficial to keep skilled professionals or key personnel in a mobile ready state for activities the agency deems critical to national security or other high priorities. Additionally, agencies should also consider whether contracts that possess capabilities for addressing impending requirements such as security, logistics, or other function, may be retooled for pandemic response consistent with the scope of the contract,” the memo says.