WASHINGTON – Homeland Security Department employees mostly are an unhappy lot.
An internal survey of about 141,000 of the department's 208,000 employees found that only 58 percent were satisfied with their jobs, the same as results from a 2006 survey that measured job satisfaction across the government. The department ranked at the bottom in the 2006 poll, which was conducted by the Office of Personnel Management.
While 91 percent of the people who work at the department think the work they do is important, only 54 percent would recommend the department as a good place to work. That number is up from the 51 percent reported in 2006.
The department was formed in 2003 out of 22 disparate agencies. Its mission ranges from immigration enforcement to emergency management and transportation security.
"It's important to recognize that it takes time to turn around a battleship," Elaine Duke, the department's deputy undersecretary for management, wrote on the agency's Web site Thursday night where the survey results were posted.
Duke said some of the department's angst can be attributed to a lack of a central headquarters location. Currently the department is scattered across dozens of places in the Washington region. The department also has undergone several reorganizations since it was created in 2003.
"While these are not excuses for low morale, as a DHS employee I can honestly say I see the challenges firsthand," Duke wrote.
When last year's results were released, the department's highest ranking officials said they would analyze the results and seek advice from agencies where workers are much happier. The most satisfied employees in the 2006 survey worked at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Last year the department's advisory council recommended that senior leadership pay closer attention to improving morale at the department. One of the recommendations was to stop calling their workers "human capital."
"Given the department's track record, I suppose it's a good thing that things have not gotten worse in the past year," said Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House committee that oversees the department.
"But just stopping the bleeding cannot be a success story," he added. "The dedicated men and women of the department deserve more."