Morale Problems Persist at DHS

By Matthew Harwood

The task of managing such a large amount of human capital has proven daunting for the department and remains one of the reasons why the GAO continues to describe DHS as a high risk of fraud, waste, and abuse to the American taxpayer. The watchdog agency describes DHS’s efforts at successfully managing its workforce--which was either integrated from previously existing departments or created anew when DHS was stood up--as “enormous and complex.”

DHS, according to the GAO, has also began to determine the root causes of employee dissatisfaction by holding focus groups, conducting exit surveys, and regularly analyzing FEVS results.

Exit surveys initiated in 2011 by DHS, according to the report, discovered that the two main reasons for leaving DHS was lack of quality supervision and lack of opportunities for advancement.

To get a better grapple on employee morale issues at DHS, the GAO recommends Secretary Janet Napolitano direct components to dig deep into root cause analyses of employee morale and, where necessary, compare results according to demographic groups, benchmark results against other federal departments, and ensure root causes are linked to action plans for improving employee morale. The GAO also recommended that action plans come with clear and measurable metrics of success.

DHS agreed with the recommendations, although it said its ability to conduct demographic analysis was limited by the data sets made available to it by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). OPM disagreed with that assessment.

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