Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 4, 2015

DHS advisory committee issues report on employee morale

Filed under: DHS News,General Homeland Security — by Christian Beckner on June 4, 2015

At its meeting on May 21, 2015, the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) issued a report by its DHS Employee Task Force, established in October 2014 following the Department’s poor rankings in the latest federal employee survey results, and formerly known as the “DHS Employee Morale Task Force” but renamed a few weeks prior to the issuance of the report. The report has been publicly released but is not yet available on the DHS website; I have posted a copy at this link.

The report includes a brief assessment of the relevant issues that affect DHS workforce morale, makes four primary recommendations, and includes twenty-seven specific action items that derive from these recommendations. The four primary recommendations are as follows:

1. Greatly increase the emphasis on leadership qualities when filling managerial positions and when assessing the performance of incumbents.
2. Significantly improve management training, particularly leadership training.
3. Adopt proven industrial standards for personnel development.
4. Significantly strengthen communications (upward, downward and outward), making greater use of modern communication technology.

Overall, the report provides a solid initial assessment of the challenges facing DHS leadership as it attempts to address morale issues, and suggests a number of common-sense management initiatives. But its analysis should be viewed as only a starting point. This is an issue that is difficult to generalize across the Department; the issues that affect the morale and satisfaction of the frontline officer at TSA or CBP are very different than the issues that affect an intelligence analyst or policy advisor at one of the headquarters offices. Moreover, it is necessary as part of such an assessment to make a distinction between issues that are within the span of control of the leadership of the Department (such as day-to-day operational policies and norms) and those that are outside of their control (such as civil service laws, or Congressional constraints on the Department’s organizational structure).

Two issues in particular are deserving of further analysis. The first is the set of procedures (formal and informal) related to decision-making and action-taking within DHS, and the incentive structure that underlies these procedures. My observation over a number of years and spanning multiple DHS leadership teams is that it is far too difficult for motivated and forward-looking individuals to take initiative and drive change within the Department. Instead, it is much easier for offices to stifle new initiatives that they do not like, a reality exacerbated by the fragmented Congressional oversight of the Department and by the existence of numerous internal oversight and compliance offices within DHS. This observation is supported by the results of Question #32 on the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey: “Creativity and innovation are rewarded.” DHS employees express on average a much more negative response to this question than employees of other federal agencies. I would contend that the frustration and hopelessness captured in these responses is a major factor in low morale at DHS.

The second issue deserving of additional attention is reflected in the results to Question #22 of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey: “Promotions in my work unit are based on merit.” 55.6% of DHS employees disagreed with this statement in the 2014 survey – the most negative result of any agency surveyed by far, and much higher than the government-wide average of 39.3%. The apparent lack of meritocracy reflected in this result is a long-standing issue at DHS (as far back as the 2006 employee survey, DHS also had the most negative result) and needs to be rigorously assessed at the component level to determine the root causes of this, which likely includes issues related to organizational culture, personnel policies, and the lack of clear standards for promotions. Notably, the HSAC task force calls for a follow-on review of these issues, including an assessment of the Department’s promotion and compensation systems.

As noted earlier, the full HSAC report can be viewed at this link.

(Note: This piece is cross-posted from the GW Center for Cyber and Homeland Security’s Security Insights blog.)

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8 Comments »

Comment by Citizen Joe

June 4, 2015 @ 5:34 pm

Truly with the news we are hearing of China’s breach into federal employees records, I guess when we talk about morale, even the federal employees are shaking their heads never mind many of us here on ‘Main Street USA” who have little respect for an administration and a Congress on both sides of the aisle who enable the Clinton’s to get away with such mischievousness and China to direct its cyber security attacks towards federal employee personnel files without any serious ramifications –

What a travesty this has all become and what a disgrace to the 29th who led at Omaha on the 6th of June ’44 and within 15 minutes, America’s youth who were willing to stand forthright and give Life or limb for freedom and we have this Chicago-Hollywood-Washington charade to look and recall that within the first 15 minutes on Omaha Beach, the 29th lost 85% of its brave soldiers —

Oh, how far we have fallen as a nation and such ignorance and apathy among the constituency and China as well as those of us on “Main Street USA” and even Vladimir know full well that there are no ramifications these days from a leaderless White House and State Department whose records have been deleted!

How dare you?

Comment by Citizen Joe

June 4, 2015 @ 5:35 pm

The New York Times
NYTimes.com Thursday, June 4, 2015 6:13 PM EDT

Federal Computer Breach With Origins in China Exposes Personnel Data
The Obama administration on Thursday announced what appeared to be one of the largest breaches of federal personnel data, involving at least four million current and former government employees, in an intrusion that federal officials say apparently originated in China.

The personal data was held by the Office of Personnel Management, which handles government security clearances and federal employee records. The breach was detected in April, the office said, but it appears to have begun at least late last year.
The breach is the second major foreign intrusion into an important federal computer system in recent months. Last year, the White House and the State Department found that their email systems had been compromised in an attack that has been widely attributed to Russian hackers.

Comment by Citizen Joe

June 4, 2015 @ 5:54 pm

….and while we can be concerned about federal employee morale and now this second most major cyber security launched towards us and employees in every agency, to the esteemed political parties and their Senators a question posed from ‘Main Street USA” —

You take security measures away from the brilliant folks at NSA who are truly our Patriots and pass a law to ask corporations to hold information when they – the corporations have even far less security when it comes to information so while this article is concerned with morale at DHS, I can tell you that I am more concerned here on “Main Street USA” about the morale of the American populace who sees both political parties and a White House executive administration apparently clueless and we truly wonder just how inept those elected are in their self-serving ways and maybe we should ask the Chinese for Ms. Hillary’s emails, ya know, the ones she deleted which led directly to the Clinton Foundation…How dare you?

Morale at DHS..how about our security and by the way, the border to our south still remains open!

What a travesty and a TSA who allows the FBI itself to test security at the airport and finds so many flaws despite billions and billions spent since 911 to DHS and TSA! …and we here on “Main Street USA” are to be concerned about employee morale ??

Comment by Citizen Joe

June 4, 2015 @ 5:54 pm

DoD Notified of OPM Cybersecurity Incident

Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, June 4, 2015 – The U.S. Office of Personnel Management announced today a recent cyber security incident affecting its systems and data that may have exposed the personal information of current and former federal employees.

According to a Defense Department news release, OPM subsequently notified federal government departments and agencies, including the DoD.

OPM is notifying approximately 4 million individuals whose personally identifiable information may have been compromised, the release said. The notifications will be sent beginning June 8 and will continue through June 19 by email and U.S. mail.

OPM will offer affected individuals credit monitoring services and identity theft insurance through CSID, a company that specializes in identity theft protection and fraud resolution, the release said. This comprehensive, 18-month membership includes credit report access, credit monitoring, identity theft insurance and recovery services and is available immediately at no cost to affected individuals identified by OPM. Employees whose information was affected will receive a notification directly from CSID, the release said.

According to the release, DoD employees are encouraged to review the OPM news release for additional information regarding steps to mitigate fraud and identify theft.

Comment by Christopher Tingus

June 4, 2015 @ 6:02 pm

….and to the Chinese, it is time that you understand that despite the fools we have in office and there are far better words to describe those who fall far short in their oath from top down, the American populace demand retaliation and a US military which stands up to those even within our own government and says, enough is enough!

Far too many brave Patriots have given far too much for freedom and our Rights and Liberty itself so while the empty rhetoric from Washington DC only encourages you to build more islands without ramification and to attack our personnel files and including those with government clearances and possibly blackmailing employees, we demand from the US military and related agencies engaged in cyber security to swiftly retaliate and let the Chinese worry about their morale for one of these days, the cyber security attack will be pointed to our electric grid and there will little we can do….

Wake up!

Christopher Tingus
“Main Street USA”
chris.tingus@gmail.com

Comment by William R. Cumming

June 5, 2015 @ 5:56 am

Well the Soviets bought college and high school year books from 1946 onwards, but the Chinese system of acquisition an improvement.

Comment by Donald Quixote

June 6, 2015 @ 10:17 am

Many of the current morale issues are much deeper and more political in nature. It appears that the survey numbers will go even lower in 2015. The great news is that you cannot go lower than 19 out of 19 – so the problem has leveled out.

Comment by Beth Randolph

June 8, 2015 @ 1:08 am

Question: Before all this so called hi tech so much better and more security encrypted and strong passwords requirements now with more problems, data breaches and hacking accomplishments by foreign countries and amateurs than ever as its going to get worse because its allowed, acceptable and no accountability. Think about it when the Federal Government developed, maintained, updated and controlled their own programs, records and reports before becoming a “commercial” business when the Federal Government is not an off the shelf COTS across the board practice? Just how many security breaches, hacking accomplishments by countries that USA borrows money, allows to buy US bonds and give all our business practices on a silver plater to pay billions to SAP for a COTS procurement wirh BSM when werent we against Germany, Japan and China in those World Wars I learned about in grade school. Sharing space stations with Russia who used a pencil and how much spent by USA to get a pen to write in outer space?? Open borders why even have the Border Patrol and a billion dollar fence to just walk around to hand a drivers license next voter registrations when it took how long for women and civil rights to vote? Seems illegal is now legal and legal has become illegal the more you get away with is unaccountable and a C average student can become President no test required or standards to pass. This is sad and people laugh who cares about morale when you play the good ol boy game is greed, mo money more power and pass go on a red light and no questions asked since answers are optional

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