Homeland Security Named Worst Big Place to Work of Federal Agencies

DHS came in last in a ranking of large agencies put out by the Partnership for Public Service.

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Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, address cybersecurity in her remarks to the American Society for Industrial Security, Monday, Sept. 10, 2012, in Philadelphia.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, address cybersecurity in her remarks to the American Society for Industrial Security, Monday, Sept. 10, 2012, in Philadelphia.

Workers at the Department of Homeland Security are the least satisfied at work of employees at all the large federal agencies, according to a new government survey. DHS, which was created in 2002 in response to the Sept. 11 attacks a decade ago, employs 240,000 people with responsibilities that run the gamut from responding to terrorist attacks to screening airline passengers.

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The survey of "The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government," put out annually by the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, ranks agencies based on a number of measures of employee satisfaction. In a comparison with 18 other big agencies, DHS ranked last for "effective leadership," "teamwork," "training and development," and "support for diversity." Its overall score also declined several points from its score in 2011.

Low morale at DHS isn't new. The issue was the subject of a congressional hearing in March, during which Texas Republican Congressman Michael McCaul testified that "more than 200,000 men and women whose job it is to keep Americans safe from terrorist attacks have a low level of morale, and equally as important a low level of confidence in their leadership."

It was the fourth time Congress held a hearing on DHS management issues.

In a statement given to Whispers, DHS spokesman Marsha Catron called employees the agency's "greatest resource."

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"We are focused on continuing to improve employee engagement through enhanced communication and training, employee recognition, and strengthening the skills of employees at every level," she said.

Catron also said a Employee Engagement Executive Steering Committee had been recently created that holds leadership accountable. According to the Washington Post, DHS has seen high turnover in leadership positions. The survey ranked DHS last in nearly every leadership category.

Admiral Thad Allen testified in March that organizational structures may also be to blame. David Maurer, director of the homeland security and justice team at the Government Accountability Office, said negative headlines about the Transportation Security Administration, a subagency of DHS, certainly didn't help. TSA's traveler patdowns have been the source of ongoing controversy.

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DHS's other subagencies include Customs and Border Protection, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Secret Service.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which is responsible for space exploration and research, was named best place to work of all large federal agencies.

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  • Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook or reach her at eflock@usnews.com.