Homeland Security employees rank last in job satisfaction survey
February 8, 2007 -- The President's visit today was the first time in three-and-a-half years he's been to the Homeland Security headquarters, a place whose own employees describe it as the worst place in the federal government to work.
In his meeting this afternoon with top officials, President Bush said he was very proud of the hard work of the men and women at Homeland Security.
But the results of the federal government's own survey of employee morale paints a different picture.
Of the 36 agencies surveyed, Homeland Security employees rated theirs as last: 36th in job satisfaction, 35th on leadership and 36th on results-oriented performance.
"Dysfunction equals danger," said Clark Kent Ervin, the former inspector general of the Homeland Security Department, who says the results of the survey are one more sign of serious trouble for the agency in charge of protecting America.
"The less good people feel about their jobs, the less likely they are to be attentive and alert," he said.
For example, in a test late last year, screeners at Newark International Airport failed tests to detect weapons at 20 of 22 checkpoints, one of the airports used by the 9/ll hijackers.
"That shows how little progress has been made, and that's especially troubling because we have devoted the bulk of our counterterrorism efforts since 9/ll to aviation, spending somewhere between $18 to $20 billion," Ervin told ABC News.
On Capitol Hill today, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was confronted with the latest employee survey.
"That is not acceptable," said Congressman David Price, D-N.C.. "It's a recipe for disaster."
"Obviously we are the newest department. The department of defense took 40 years to get configured properly in Goldwater Nickels, and we all know the first secretary of defense committed suicide," Chertoff told the committee in response.
At the same time, down the hall, another congressional committee was looking into allegations of millions of dollars in waste and possible corruption involving the Coast Guard's new cutters and plans to build a fence along the border with Mexico -- all under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security.
"It is still the case that the department is just a collection of disparate, dysfunction agencies," Ervin said. "There is yet to be an integratged, cohesive whole."
That's obviously not what President Bush had in mind when he created the Department of Homeland Security in July 2002, merging 22 agencies under one roof.
"This Department of Homeland Security will foster a new culture throughout our government," President Bush said on July 22, 2002.
A merger some are beginning to say has to be undone.
"You've got to slim down this beast; it's just too big, too many missions, too many employees, too much turnover, not enough leadership, the list of problems goes on and on," said Professor Paul Light of the New York University's Wagner School.
A spokesman for the Homeland Security Department said today the low morale was the fault of the media and its focus during Hurricane Katrina on FEMA, another of the troubled agencies under the department.
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