GAO: DHS Ranks 31 Out of 33 for ‘Best Places to Work’ in Gov’t

By Elizabeth Harrington | November 1, 2012 | 5:46 PM EDT

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. (AP)

( – Concerned about low morale in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), members of Congress asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the agency and its findings revealed that DHS ranked 31st out of the 33 “Best Places to Work” in the federal government.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), and Rep. William Keating (D-Mass.) asked the GAO to compare the morale of DHS with other government departments and found that Homeland Security employees reported having “lower average morale than the average for the rest of the federal government.”

Overall, DHS employees had a 4.5 percentage point lower job satisfaction and a 7.0 percentage point lower engagement, meaning “the extent to which employees are immersed in their work and spending extra effort on job performance,” according to the GAO report from Sept. 28, which was released Wednesday.

“Since it [DHS] began operations in 2003,” the report said, “DHS employees have reported having low job satisfaction.”

The agency has consistently ranked near the bottom when surveying its employees’ confidence.   “Similar to its 2011 ranking, 31st of 33 federal agencies, the Partnership [for Public Service’s] ranked DHS 28th of 32 in 2010, 28th of 30 in 2009, and 29th of 30 in 2007 in the Best Places to Work ranking on overall scores for employee satisfaction and commitment,” states the GAO.

The Best Places to Work are determined by employee responses to the questions: “I recommend my organization as a good place to work”; “Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your job?”; and, “Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your organization?”

The GAO itself is the third best agency to work for, according to the responses.  Others in the top five, in order, include: the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Smithsonian Institution and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Only the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the National Archives and Records Administration rank worse than the DHS.

A TSA checkpoint at Lindbergh Field in San Diego, Calif. (AP photo/Eduardo Contreras, San Diego Union Tribune)

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had the lowest job satisfaction of all assignments within DHS, 11.6 percentage points below the non-DHS average, scoring a 56.9 job satisfaction index and a 54.4 employee engagement index.

For comparison, all non-DHS employees boast a job satisfaction index of 68.5, and an employee engagement index of 67.1.

The job satisfaction index, the GAO said, is composed of questions such as, “my work gives me a feeling of personal accomplishment.”  The engagement index “indicates the extent to which employees are immersed in the content of the job and energized to spend extra effort in job performance.”

Within the TSA, airport screeners had the lowest job satisfaction at 53.6 and engagement at 50.9

The GAO noted that “improving human capital management is a DHS priority.”

The report concluded, “Given the critical nature of DHS’s mission to protect the security and economy of our nation, it is important that DHS employees are satisfied with their jobs so that DHS can retain and attract the talent required to complete its work.”

The GAO recommended that the DHS examine the causes of its low morale and establish metrics of success in their agency action plan.