Shoring up Sinking Morale at Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security is one of the worst places to work in the federal government. Born out of 22 agencies cobbled together following 9/11 terrorist attacks, the mammoth department has struggled with the lowest employee morale for several years in a row in annual surveys. 

This is not a good sign. After all, these are the people who protect our homeland. They should feel that they are treated fairly and with respect, and that their concerns are addressed.

Members of Congress have decided to do something about it. The House recently passed a bill that seeks to shore up their morale. The DHS Morale, Recognition, Learning, and Engagement Act of 2017, authored by House Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member Bennie Thompson, establishes steps to foster partnership between employees and management so that employees’ voices are heard.

Specifically, the bill would create an employee engagement steering committee with representatives from all components, workers, and unions to develop morale improvement strategies. It authorizes DHS-wide leadership development and rotational opportunities. It creates an annual employee award program to recognize employees who make significant contributions to the department. It adds transparency and fairness to DHS’s disciplinary process by directing an independent, department-wide review of how discipline is carried out by components. 

“Passage sends a positive message to the DHS workforce that their contributions to the DHS mission are valued and their sacrifice has not been forgotten as they endure new stresses and challenges,” Rep. Thompson said. “Given the Department’s national security mission and reductions in operating budgets, it is essential that the DHS workforce be supported – as they are responsible for carrying out the diverse range of programs that keep our country safe.” 

AFGE, which represents tens of thousands of employees at DHS, supports the bill. 

“Given the diversity in mission, duties, and experience, their direct input is necessary to address issues of importance to their colleagues, including fair treatment and that their voices are heard by management,” said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. “Steps to resolve these issues will enable the workforce to better serve the public.” 

Agencies under DHS include TSA, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, Citizenship and Immigration Services, Coast Guard, Secret Service, and FEMA. 

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