Sunday, October 16, 2005


Sorry, I am about to be a little wonky here. I normally try to avoid this, but sometimes it is unavoidable.

The Sunday New York Times reported on a survey done by the Federal Office of Personnel Management. The survey asked a bunch of questions, and gives the responses by agency. There are some responses that ought to scare us all.

For instance, the Department of Homeland Security is the agency created after September 11, 2001 to coordinate the domestic fight against terrorists. It was supposed to be able to react to changing circumstances, and be able to share knowledge. In response to the statement "I feel encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing this things" more DHS responders "strongly disagreed" than any other agency reported. At DHS 14.1% of responders strongly disagreed. No other agency had even 9% who said that. Overall 39.4% of DHS responders disagreed or strongly disagreed with this statement. Almost 20% had no opinion. In other words, almost 60% of DHS responers did not believe that they were encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing things. That is far and away the most negative response in the government. Not good.

In response to the statement "I know how my work relates to the agency's goals and priorities," DHS, the Office of Personnel Management, and the Small Business Administration are in a dead heat for the highest percentage of negative answers (roughly 9.1%). Of course, OPM is OPM, and SBA is SBA, while DHS is supposed to be protecting us from terrorists. Thus, I am concerned if 1/10 DHS empoyees doesn't get the point of what they are doing. Ever been to a big port? 1/10 are not great odds if these people are the ones inspecting shipments to ensure that terrorists are not sneaking material into the country. By the way, the 12.2% of DHS employees who gave a neutral answer to this statement are also among the highest rate in the government.

Perhaps most troubling of all, in response to the statement "promotions in my work unit are based on merit," DHS is far and away the leader in negative responses. 32.1% strongly disagree, 19.7% disagree. 51.8% percent of responders explicitly disagree with this statement.

There is a lot of interesting data in this survey. However, when the law enforcement agency created to combat terrorism three years ago shows numbers like these, it becomes appropriate at some point to ask whether this organization needs to be completely overhauled with better management. It should also be noted that the Marine Corps did not score very well in terms of satisfaction. If DHS is our shield, the Marines are our sword.


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