Innovation at work.

Innovation at work. NASA

The Most and Least Innovative Federal Agencies

Federal employees rank NASA at the top of the list, and Homeland Security at the bottom.

NASA for the fourth consecutive year tops the list of most innovative large federal agencies, according to the Partnership for Public Service’s analysis of government data. The agency, which scored 76 points out of 100 on the innovation scale, also accomplished a first in 2013: NASA is the parent agency to the top five most innovative sub-agencies on the list, with the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi ranking No. 1.

At the other end of the spectrum is the Homeland Security Department, ranked least innovative with a score of 50.7 out of 100. DHS is one of the government’s largest and youngest agencies, and as the department responsible for securing the homeland, its relationship with innovation can be a fine balance to achieve. Fostering creative problem-solving and thinking outside the box is certainly critical to protecting citizens, but sometimes, you’ve got to play it safe to be safe. 

So, much like People Magazine’s annual 50 Most Beautiful People roundup (which just hit newsstands), some no doubt will take issue with these lists. Keep in mind that innovation is a subjective concept, and the data reflect the views of less than a quarter of the government workforce.

The analysis, compiled by the Partnership for Public Service, Deloitte and the Hay Group, is based on the Office of Personnel Management’s 2013 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. Departments and agencies are categorized by size. Below are the top five most innovative agencies in each size category, as ranked by federal employees, followed by the five least innovative.

Most Innovative Large Agencies


2. State

3. Commerce

4. Health and Human Services

5. Environmental Protection Agency

Most Innovative Mid-Size Agencies

1. Federal Trade Commission

2. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

3. National Science Foundation

4. Federal Communications Commission

5. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

Most Innovative Small Agencies

1. Surface Transportation Board     

2. Peace Corps

3. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service

4. National Endowment for the Humanities

5. Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board

Least Innovative Large Agencies

1. Homeland Security

2. Labor

3. Transportation

4. Agriculture

5. Social Security Administration

Least Innovative Mid-Size Agencies

1. National Labor Relations Board  

2. Housing and Urban Development

3. National Archives and Records Administration

4. Broadcasting Board of Governors

5. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Least Innovative Small Agencies

1. Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board

2. Federal Maritime Commission

3. Export-Import Bank of the United States

4. Office of the U.S. Trade Representative

5. Merit Systems Protection Board