And the Worst Federal Agency to Work at Is...

WASHINGTON – If you’re looking for a pleasant, fulfilling job with the federal government, you best shy away from the Department of Homeland Security.

The annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, conducted by the Office of Personnel Management to measure employee perceptions about workplace conditions, designated the DHS as the worst agency and Customs and Immigration Enforcement, a division within the department, as the least desirable spot to hold a job.

The label doesn’t come as a surprise – DHS frequently is cited in the survey as one of the worst places to work within the federal government. Since 2013, the agency’s perception has grown worse.

Joining DHS at the bottom of the scale is the Department of Veterans Affairs, an agency with well-documented problems over the past several months, and the Department of Labor.

On the opposite end, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Department of State ranked the highest. The 2014 questionnaire received more than 400,000 responses.

“The U.S. federal workforce is the greatest public workforce in the world. Unfortunately, many federal agencies have deep, systemic problems that are hampering employee success, driving away good employees and creating environments where misconduct and mismanagement go unaddressed,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Government Operations, which conducted a hearing on the survey.

“The vast majority of federal employees are honest, hard-working people who want to be good stewards of American taxpayers’ dollars, but there is great frustration when bad actors are not punished and ongoing issues are never addressed,” Meadows said.

The Department of Homeland Security, established in 2002 in wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to coordinate the nation’s self-defense effort, has been a consistent bottom-feeder almost since its inception. This year it received an overall positive score of 44 percent – its lowest ever. By comparison, NASA got a positive rating of 74 percent.

Meadows noted that DHS scored lowest on leadership, fairness, empowerment and skills to match the mission, suggesting that “not enough has been done” by leadership to improve the situation.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) speculated that low DHS morale can be traced to the Obama administration’s immigration policies, a sore point with Republicans who oppose steps to protect some illegal immigrants from deportation.

“I can tell you every time I go home, and I talk to the women and men who are still in law enforcement, nothing would diminish their morale quite like being asked to do the opposite of what they signed up to do,” Gowdy said.

Catherine Emerson, the chief human capital officer for the Department of Homeland Security, said the agency’s workforce is asked to perform “difficult work under challenging circumstances.” DHS employees are charged with protecting the nation’s borders, guiding river traffic, managing shipments at the nation’s ports and checking at airport passengers.

“To create the department that our employees deserve, we must start with our leadership to improve employee morale,” she said. “We have taken concrete steps to provide our senior leaders with the direction and tools to focus on strengthening employee engagement within their workforce. We are also in the process of implementing efforts to address issues identified by our employees.”