Morale in the National Security Agencies Still Stinks

Who’s who in DHS. Click to embiggen.

Turns out that, apart from Treasury, all the least happy Fed agencies are the ones with national security responsibilities, with DHS (home of perennial morale cellar-dwellers ICE and CBP) the lowest of the low.

You would think that Feds would be the happiest people in the country: few of them work as hard or as long as their private-sector counterparts, almost all of them are paid more and have vastly greater benefits, and they’ve turned out to have more job security than the hereditary peers in the House of Lords. Nobody is ever held to account for anything, in Fed World. But the kind of people who seek security or law enforcement jobs include not just Payroll Patriots, but True Believers, and the True Believers have been crushed for years by organizations focused on the social justice war, and bedamned to the actual mission.

The Washington Examiner has the results of the survey, and some quotes about how things are looking up from clueless boob (and lame-duck DHS supremo) Jeh Johnson.  From the bottom up, the departments are DHS, Veterans’ Affairs (no surprise there), Army, Treasury, Air Force, Joint Services, Navy, and then the rest of the bureaucracy, with NASA at the top and happiest. (Why not? With the retirement of the shuttle, they’re a pretty pure bureaucracy who have outsourced launching astronauts so they can revel in the paper shuffling).

Take it away, Jeh:

“While we are disappointed with the Department of Homeland Security’s overall 2016 ranking … I am pleased that our employee engagement score increased 2.7 points,” Johnson said. “This is in contrast to an overall 1.3-point increase government-wide, and it is the second largest single-year increase of any large agency.

“This is also the first increase in the department’s survey score since 2010,” he added.

The VA was the second-worst place to work, and its 2016 score was 56.7, more than 10 points higher than DHS’s score.


Back in September, Jeh responded to a government survey that also put his guys dead last:

“I have said many times that, this year, morale will improve,” Johnson said then.

Well, it’s certainly possible. Sending Jeh Johnson to the showers is probably a good place to start.

This isn’t the by-agency morale survey, but a by-Department survey by a non-profit of unknown provenance and purpose. (For non-USians, Agencies and Bureaus are smaller entities, which report to Departments; a Department is led by a cabinet Secretary who is appointed by the President and confirmed by vote of the Senate).

When the government-sponsored by-agency morale survey is out, DHS’s ICE is a 10-1 favorite for the three-hundred-and-last-th position again.

13 thoughts on “Morale in the National Security Agencies Still Stinks

  1. John M.

    The family and I cruised through a Border Patrol checkpoint near our southern border yesterday afternoon. The officer wished me a “Merry Christmas” to send us on our way. I commented to Mrs. M. that this must be another effect of the nascent Trump administration.

    He seemed to be in a good mood, also, but then, it was a nice day out.

    -John M.

  2. Chemechie

    A note: This is an official OPM survey who all federal employees are hounded to complete (agencies keep track of response rates and push for higher response rates each year). It is a BIG deal to agency management.
    You can view full results and play with data from it here:

  3. Jim Scrummy

    Hey, my organization is in 28th place on the one chart! Woohoo for me…. Good times, good times. As I have been telling numerous co-workers, when you’re $20 trillion in known debt (not to mention the unfunded mandates), where’s the cash for your salary going to come from? Keep rolling over the short-term debt? Increase taxes? Slash and burn gubmint spending (not going to happen, we’ll default before that takes place). Just points to ponder over Christmas.

  4. Keith

    Sorta reminds me of accounts of the last days of Donitz’s HQ on the Baltic. The staff were happily filing, typing, memoing away…until British tanks and infantry arrived in late May, 1945 to arrest everybody and box up and cart away all the files and memo’s for the Nuremberg trials.

    So for the drones in the federal government…..

  5. Ward Hopper

    Is it me, or is the satisfaction of the Pentagon bureaucracy inversely related to the satisfaction of the uniformed branch it represents? In other words, the uniformed Navy is miserable, but the Department of the Navy is happier than any other “Department of” branch.

  6. James F.

    Query: do you think upcoming changes in the Executive Branch will lead to increased morale in ICE and CBP?

    About ten years ago I was talking to a retired Border Patrol officer who took part in Operation Wetback as a young man.

    He pointed out that Eisenhower didn’t have to pass any new laws to do that, he just needed to give the orders.

    1. Dienekes

      My INS mentor (quite the dinosaur) was of that era. We have never needed “comprehensive immigration reform”. Simply faithfully executing the laws would suffice quite nicely, then or now.

      Which, come to think of it, is a powerful indictment of those who failed to act.

  7. DSM

    I wouldn’t expect NASA to be anywhere but in the top for morale. A lot of those guys never grew out of the junior space cadet period of their lives so they’re doing what they love.
    My parent agency is 14 and falling. Yikes. Better call up the crisis counsellors.

  8. Alan Ward

    Jeh’s quote decoded: last year our results showed we sucked enough to pull golf balls through a garden hose. This year we sucked only enough to put marbles though the same hose.

  9. James

    What Jeh really meant: “The beatings will continue until morale improves”.

    Glad “my” agency ranked #1.

  10. Y.

    (Why not? With the retirement of the shuttle, they’re a pretty pure bureaucracy who have outsourced launching astronauts so they can revel in the paper shuffling).

    And what a good thing that was!

    SpaceX’s entire costs for 10 years of operation were less than 1 shuttle launch.

    Shuttle, if examined closely, is a poster-child for expensive boondoggle built by people who only ever spend other people’s money..

    1. Aesop

      Tell that to our guys who had to hitch a ride back on the Russians’ vehicle.

      Disband NASA entirely, let the military fly their missions out of Vandenburg, and let private corps bid for the use of former NASA facilities.

      They’ll be turning profits in short order.

  11. Aesop

    And given both what some of those agencies do, and how well they do it, they deserve some low morale: they’ve earned it.

    OT: Gentle Host: heard some rumblings today that the VA was shamed into leaking their own 1-5 star ratings metrics for all their facilities, after someone leaked a number of them from internal VA memos.
    Detroit, LA and other VA facilities managed to achieve the lowest-possible 1-star rating.
    Looking forward to your report on it when you wade through the dreck for the rest of us.

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