Jul 27 2020

Federal Employees Display Resilience in a Chaotic Era

In these uncertain times, workers rise to the occasion and keep the government running.

The past few months have seen their share of turbulent events. Federal ­workers have been doubly affected, as both citizens and responders. IRS employees found their standard annual routine upended, as the tax deadline was pushed back and they were assigned the task of mailing out desperately needed stimulus checks. In addition to caring for their patients, medical ­workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs were put on standby to become the backup caregivers for nonveterans.

But federal employees responded quickly to those new demands, as well as the ones that private citizens were experiencing: educating their children at home, trying to remain healthy if they were required to work onsite, teleworking if they were able.

I’m sure everyone has had a moment when it was just too much — we’re all human. But the grace and flexibility with which the federal workforce has responded to this crisis-filled period must be recognized. 

Agencies Become More Flexible to Keep Government Running

Top IT officials at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Farm Credit Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency got a firsthand look at this response as they moved their workforces to a telework footing. Our roundtable on that pivot tells their stories in honest and human detail.

Many agencies rely on meetings to get things done — including conferences that involve travel, audiovisual production and public input. We take a look at how agencies ranging from the National Institutes of Health to the tradition-bound Senate are handling the switch to online meetings.

In the meantime, another major national event is nearing, one that’s already been disrupted by a pandemic, disinformation and civil unrest: the presidential election. Federal cybersecurity experts have been working with states to keep elections secure even as they were delayed, rescheduled and subject to curfew.

These times are interesting, to be sure, both in the dictionary definition of the word and the sense in which the ancient Chinese supposedly used it as a curse. And these times are the sort that call on people to be flexible, adaptable and resilient. The federal workforce has shown that it can be all three at a moment’s emergency notice.

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