Low morale continues to plague Homeland Security

Jeff Gentner/AP

Employees at the Homeland Security Department are less satisfied with their jobs on average than other federal workers, and DHS must do a better job figuring out why, according to a new report.

Morale varies among DHS employees, depending on where they work, with job satisfaction and employee engagement particularly low at the Transportation Security Administration and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency compared to other federal workers, the Government Accountability Office pointed out in a new report based on data from the 2011 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

While DHS has tried to determine the reasons behind low morale within certain agencies, GAO said the department should put in place more specific metrics to home in on the root causes of dissatisfaction among different sections of the workforce. “GAO found that despite having broad performance metrics in place to track and assess DHS employee morale on an agencywide level, DHS does not have specific metrics within the action plans that are consistently clear and measurable,” the GAO report concluded. GAO looked at four agencies within the department: the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, ICE and TSA.

Dissatisfaction over pay and the fairness of performance evaluations are affecting the morale of TSA employees, according to GAO’s analysis of the latest Federal Employee Viewpoint, while ICE employees did not think pay raises were linked to job performance. Employees at some DHS agencies, however, are pretty happy: job satisfaction at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, Coast Guard, CPB and the Secret Service was higher than the average for the rest of the government, according to the 2011 survey.

DHS is the government’s third-largest department, with more than 200,000 employees.

Low morale has been a problem for DHS since its creation in 2003, although job satisfaction has improved since 2006, according to GAO. The department has used focus groups and put in place an employee exit survey in addition to creating an employee engagement committee at the leadership level to suss out problems. Poor training, staff turnover and negative publicity have been cited as reasons for employee dissatisfaction; a House Homeland Security subcommittee held a hearing on the topic earlier this year. TSA announced in October that it would seek to fire 25 employees at Newark Liberty Airport and suspend 19 others for improperly screening checked luggage.

“One explanation for lower morale at DHS is that its employees could be members of demographic groups that typically have lower morale across all agencies,” GAO’s report said. “If this is true, the cause of morale problems and their solutions might focus less on factors that are unique to DHS and more on approaches that apply to any agency with a similar workforce.”

GAO’s analysis of the 2011 survey also indicated that job satisfaction among the DHS workforce varied, depending on employee pay and length of service. Higher paid employees, including those in the Senior Executive Service, tended to be happier with their jobs than other groups. Employees with less than a year of service at the department reported the highest job satisfaction score.

DHS agreed with GAO’s findings.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.