Skip to content

Ernst Expands Investigation on Impact of USDA’s Telework

Works to ensure USDA is efficient for Iowans, instead of abusing telework policies.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and John Boozman (R-Ark.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, requested the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Inspector General (IG) build upon Ernst’s previous oversight into federal agencies’ telework abuse and expand its investigation into USDA’s footprint and workforce throughout the country.

Last month, when Ernst confronted USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack after a USDA supervisor revealed to her that the agency’s headquarters resemble a “ghost town,” he claimed that his employees and managers are in the D.C. office “a majority of the week,” even though managers and supervisors are only required to be in the office five days every ten workdays.

The lawmakers followed up by writing,Secretary Vilsack’s apparent misapprehension regarding the telework posture of his workforce underlines the importance of comprehensive reviews, audits, and evaluations of the USDA’s telework, locality pay, and space utilization policies as requested in the August 28, 2023, letter. We also request your office not limit its review merely to the USDA’s headquarters and its D.C.-based employees, but also to its footprint and workforce throughout the country. Secretary Vilsack also took issue with the recent analysis by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that found the USDA is utilizing just 11 percent of its available office space within its headquarters, saying the GAO calculation is ‘not even close to correct.’ Secretary Vilsack said these numbers do not reflect ‘what is happening in February 2024,’ even though GAO’s estimates are based on average space utilization taken over a three-month period less than a year ago.”

“As members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry who represent states that support the nation’s food supply, it is vitally important to farmers, ranchers, and agricultural producers across the country for USDA to be available and accountable. If USDA employees are unreachable and unresponsive to their own managers, we worry our constituents are receiving the same treatment, or worse,” they continued.


Since August 2023, Ernst has been demanding investigations into 24 federal departments and agencies to determine the impact of telework on the delivery and response times of services.

In October 2023, Ernst also increased accountability for federal telework abuse by passing an amendment to hold the Biden administration accountable for the cost to taxpayers and the impact on services from continued remote work by Washington bureaucrats.

In December 2023, Ernst exposed that, almost four years after COVID-19 temporarily closed federal buildings, not a single government agency was utilizing even half their office space.