oversight

Department of Homeland Security: Preliminary Observations on DHS's Efforts to Improve Employee Morale

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-03-22.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                            United States Government Accountability Office

GAO                         Testimony
                            Before the Subcommittee on Oversight,
                            Investigations, and Management,
                            Committee on Homeland Security, House
                            of Representatives
                            DEPARTMENT OF
For Release on Delivery
Expected at 9:00 a.m. EDT
Thursday, March 22, 2012

                            HOMELAND SECURITY
                            Preliminary Observations
                            on DHS’s Efforts to Improve
                            Employee Morale
                            Statement of David C. Maurer, Director
                            Homeland Security and Justice Issues




GAO-12-509T
                                               March 22, 2012

                                               DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
                                               Preliminary Observations on DHS's Efforts to
                                               Improve Employee Morale
Highlights of GAO-12-509T, a testimony
before the Subcommittee on Oversight,
Investigations, and Management, Committee
on Homeland Security, House of
Representatives


Why GAO Did This Study                         What GAO Found
DHS is the third largest cabinet-level         Over time, federal surveys have consistently found that Department of Homeland
agency in the federal government,              Security (DHS) employees are less satisfied with their jobs than the government-
employing more than 200,000                    wide average. In the 2004 Office of Personnel Management’s federal employee
employees in a broad range of jobs.            survey—a tool that measures employees’ perceptions of whether and to what
Since its creation in 2003, DHS has            extent conditions characterizing successful organizations are present in their
faced challenges implementing its              agency—56 percent of DHS employees responded that they were satisfied with
human capital functions, and its               their jobs, compared to 68 percent government-wide. In subsequent years, the
employees have reported having low             disparity continued—ranging from a difference of 8 percentage points in 2006 to
job satisfaction. GAO designated the
                                               a 4 percentage point difference in 2008, 2010, and 2011. In 2011, DHS’s
implementation and transformation of
                                               percentage of positive responses was lower than the averages for the rest of the
DHS as high risk because it
represented an enormous and complex
                                               federal government. For example, slightly less than half of the DHS employees
undertaking that would require time to         surveyed reported positive responses to the statement “My talents are used well
achieve in an effective and efficient          in the workplace,” nearly 12 percentage points less than the rest of the federal
manner. This testimony presents                government average. In two areas, DHS’s percentage of positive responses was
preliminary observations regarding: (1)        nearly the same or higher than the rest of the federal government average. For
how DHS’s employees’ workforce                 example, DHS’s percentage of positive responses to the statement “Considering
satisfaction compares with that of other       everything, how satisfied are you with your pay?” was not statistically different
federal government employees, and              than the rest of the federal government average. Job satisfaction data for 2011
(2) the extent to which DHS is taking          show that satisfaction levels vary across DHS components. For example, job
steps to improve employee job                  satisfaction index results show the Transportation Security Administration as 11
satisfaction. GAO’s comments are               percentage points below government-wide averages while other components,
based on ongoing work on DHS’s                 such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection, posted above average results.
employee job satisfaction survey
results and its actions and plans to           DHS has taken steps to identify where it has the most significant employee
improve them, as well as reports               satisfaction problems and developed plans to address those problems, but has
issued from January 2003 through               not yet improved DHS employee satisfaction survey results. For example, to
February 2012 on high-risk and morale          determine root causes of job satisfaction department-wide, DHS conducted an
issues in the federal government and           evaluation of the 2008 Federal Human Capital Survey results, according to DHS
at DHS. To conduct its ongoing work,           officials. In that analysis, DHS determined that the drivers of employee
GAO analyzed DHS and component                 satisfaction across DHS included the DHS mission, senior leadership
planning documents, interviewed                effectiveness, and supervisor support. According to DHS officials, DHS is
relevant DHS officials about employee          working with a contractor on a new department-wide analysis of root causes of
morale, and analyzed 2011 federal              employee morale. As of March 2012, this analysis was not complete. DHS and
employee job satisfaction survey               its components are also taking steps to improve components’ positive response
results.                                       rates to selected survey items. For example, DHS’s Integrated Strategy for High
                                               Risk Management identified corrective actions to improve employee job
                                               satisfaction scores, such as the launch of the Employee Engagement Executive
                                               Steering Committee. GAO has previously reported on a variety of issues,
                                               including concerns about pay and a lack of trust in leadership that can lead to
                                               morale problems. This variation in potential issues that can result in morale
                                               problems underscores the importance of looking beyond survey scores to
                                               understand the root causes of those problems and developing plans to address
                                               them. Given the critical nature of DHS’s mission to protect the security and
                                               economy of the United States, it is important that DHS employees are satisfied
                                               with their jobs so that DHS can attract and retain the talent required to complete
View GAO-12-509T. For more information,        its work. GAO will continue to assess DHS’s efforts to address employee job
contact David C. Maurer at (202) 512-9627 or   satisfaction and expects to issue a report on its results in September 2012.
maurerd@gao.gov.

                                                                                       United States Government Accountability Office
Chairman McCaul, Ranking Member Keating, and Members of the
Subcommittee:

I am pleased to appear today to provide our preliminary observations on
the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) efforts to address
employees’ job satisfaction. DHS is the third largest cabinet-level agency
in the federal government, employing more than 200,000 employees in a
broad range of jobs, including aviation and border security, emergency
response, cybersecurity analysis, and chemical facility inspection. The
DHS workforce is situated throughout the nation, carrying out activities to
support DHS’s mission to (1) prevent terrorism and enhance security, (2)
secure and manage the nation’s borders, (3) enforce and administer
immigration laws, (4) safeguard and secure cyberspace, and (5) ensure
resilience from disasters. DHS carries out an additional set of activities to
provide essential support to national and economic security.

Since its creation in 2003, DHS has faced challenges implementing its
human capital functions, and its employees have reported having low job
satisfaction. For example, DHS’s scores on the 2011 Office of Personnel
Management (OPM) Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS)—a tool
that measures employees’ perceptions of whether and to what extent
conditions characterizing successful organizations are present in their
agency—and the Partnership for Public Service’s (Partnership) 2011
rankings of the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government were
lower than governmentwide averages. 1 In the 2011 FEVS survey, DHS’s
percentage of positive responses was 64 percent for the job satisfaction
index, 33rd out of 37 agencies surveyed, and 4 percentage points below
the governmentwide average. 2 In addition, in 2011, DHS was ranked 31st
out of 33 agencies in the Best Places to Work ranking on overall scores




1
  OPM conducted the FEVS in April/May 2011. The survey sample included
employees from 29 major federal agencies, as well as 54 small and large
independent agencies. The survey results represent a snapshot in time of the
perceptions of the federal workforce.
2
  The job satisfaction index, comprising seven FEVS questions, indicates the
extent to which employees are satisfied with their jobs and various aspects
thereof.




Page 1                                                               GAO-12-509T
for employee satisfaction and commitment, which is similar to its ranking
in past years. 3

DHS employee concerns about job satisfaction are one example of the
challenges the department faces across its management functions. In
January 2003, we designated the implementation and transformation of
DHS as high risk because it represented an enormous and complex
undertaking that would require time to achieve in an effective and efficient
manner, and it has remained on our high-risk list since that time. 4 This
high-risk area includes challenges in strengthening DHS’s management
functions—financial management, information technology, acquisition
management, and human capital. 5 DHS has issued various strategies
and plans for its human capital activities and functions, such as a human
capital strategic plan for fiscal years 2009 through 2013 6 and a workforce
strategy for fiscal years 2011 through 2016, which contains the
department’s workforce goals, objectives, and performance measures for
human capital management. 7 In addition, DHS recently updated its plans
for improving the department’s scores on the FEVS.




3
  Partnership for Public Service and the Institute for the Study of Public Policy
Implementation at the American University School of Public Affairs, The Best
Places to Work in the Federal Government.
4
 We have identified six high-risk areas involving DHS that need broad-based
transformation to address major economy, efficiency, or effectiveness
challenges. DHS has key responsibility for four of these six areas: (1)
Implementing and Transforming DHS, (2) The National Flood Insurance
Program, (3) Protecting the Federal Government’s Information Systems and the
Nation’s Critical Infrastructure, and (4) Establishing Effective Mechanisms for
Sharing Terrorism-Related Information to Protect the Homeland. DHS does not
have primary responsibility for the other two areas: (1) Strategic Human Capital
Management and (2) Managing Federal Real Property. GAO, Department of
Homeland Security: Progress Made in Implementation and Transformation of
Management Functions, but More Work Remains, GAO-10-911T (Washington,
D.C.: Sept. 30, 2010).
5
 GAO, Department of Homeland Security: Continued Progress Made Improving
and Integrating Management Areas, but More Work Remains, GAO-12-365T
(Washington, D.C.: Mar. 1, 2012)
6
 DHS, Human Capital Strategic Plan, Fiscal Years 2009-2013 (Washington,
D.C.).
7
DHS, Workforce Strategy for Fiscal Year 2011-2016 (Washington, D.C.).




Page 2                                                                   GAO-12-509T
We have previously reported that successful organizations empower and
involve their employees to gain insights about operations from a frontline
perspective, increase their understanding and acceptance of
organizational goals and objectives, and improve motivation and morale. 8
DHS has consistently been behind the rest of the federal government in
key measures of workforce satisfaction, but it is taking actions aimed at
improvement. As requested, my testimony presents preliminary
observations regarding (1) how DHS’s employees’ workforce satisfaction
compares with that of other federal government employees and (2) the
extent to which DHS is taking steps to improve employee job satisfaction.

My statement is based on ongoing work for your committee regarding
DHS’s employee job satisfaction survey results and its actions and plans
to improve them as well as prior reports we issued from January 2003
through February 2012 on high-risk and morale issues in the federal
government and at DHS. 9 Detailed information on our scope and
methodology for our prior work can be found in these reports. We plan to
issue a report on the final results from our ongoing work in September
2012. For our ongoing work, among other things, we analyzed DHS and
component planning documents relevant to employee morale, interviewed
DHS officials about employee morale, and analyzed 2011 FEVS results.
We shared the information in this statement with DHS and incorporated
its comments where appropriate.

All of our work was conducted in accordance with generally accepted
government auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan
and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide
a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit
objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable
basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.




8
 GAO, High-Risk Series: Strategic Human Capital Management, GAO-03-120
(Washington, D.C.: January 2003).
9
    See related GAO products at the end of this statement.




Page 3                                                           GAO-12-509T
                        Over time, federal surveys have consistently found that DHS employees
DHS Employees           are less satisfied with their jobs than the governmentwide average. 10
Indicated Less Job      Shortly after DHS was formed, 2004 federal survey data indicated a
Satisfaction Than the   disparity between DHS and governmentwide averages in job satisfaction.
                        At that time, 56 percent of DHS employees responded that they were
Rest of the Federal     satisfied with their jobs, compared to the 68 percent governmentwide. 11 In
Government              subsequent years when comparative data were available using the job
                        satisfaction index, the disparity continued—ranging from a difference of 8
                        percentage points in 2006 to a 4 percentage point difference in 2008,
                        2010, and 2011.

                        In 2011, DHS employees also consistently indicated less satisfaction on
                        key items in OPM’s 2011 FEVS than employees in the rest of the federal
                        government. On the basis of its analysis of its FEVS, OPM determined
                        that responses to these items—called impact items— make a difference
                        in whether people want to come, stay, and contribute their fullest to an
                        agency. Specifically, DHS employees were less positive on 14 of the 16
                        impact items. In some key areas, DHS’s percentage of positive responses
                        was lower than the rest of the federal government averages. For
                        example:

                        •    Slightly less than half of the DHS employees surveyed reported
                             positive responses to the statement “My talents are used well in the
                             workplace,” nearly 12 percentage points less than the rest of the
                             federal government average of 61.6 percent.

                        •    DHS employees had nearly 10 percentage points fewer positive
                             responses to the statements “I am given a real opportunity to improve
                             my skills in my organization” and “Managers communicate the goals




                        10
                           The annual employee surveys cited in this testimony are overall assessments
                        of an agency’s climate and culture. While measures of job satisfaction were part
                        of over 80 survey questions asked, according to OPM, the surveys are a
                        comprehensive analysis of an employee’s experience in his or her agency
                        covering areas including leadership, work/life balance, training, and performance
                        management. However, responses from a single survey provide only a partial
                        picture of the level of job satisfaction and other concerns among employees.
                        11
                          OPM’s job satisfaction index was not used in 2004; as a gauge of job
                        satisfaction, the figures reported here are responses to the following question:
                        Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your job? The index and DHS
                        versus governmentwide averages are available for 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2011.




                        Page 4                                                                GAO-12-509T
    and priorities of the organization” than the rest of the federal
    government averages of 66.0 and 65.3 percent respectively.

In two areas, DHS’s percentage of positive responses was nearly the
same or higher than the rest of the federal government average.
Specifically:

•   DHS’s percentage of positive responses to the statement
    “Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your pay?” was
    not statistically different than the rest of the federal government
    average, with responses of 62 percent for DHS and 63 percent for the
    rest of the federal government.

•   DHS was nearly 2 percentage points higher than the rest of the
    federal government average for the statement “My workload is
    reasonable.”

The percentage of DHS respondents with positive responses on each of
16 impact items and the difference between DHS and the rest of the
federal government appear in appendix I. OPM calls for federal leaders to
pay attention to the 16 impact items as key indicators of engagement and
commitment to continued service. While improvement in any of the impact
items that OPM identified could help DHS improve its attractiveness as an
employer of choice, the items for which DHS is farthest behind the rest of
the federal government could provide a focus for targeting improvement
efforts.

The 2011 job satisfaction data also indicate that satisfaction levels vary
across components within DHS. For example, as shown in table 1, job
satisfaction index results for the 2011 FEVS show the Transportation
Security Administration (TSA) as 11 percentage points below
governmentwide averages while other large components, such as U.S.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the U.S. Coast Guard (Coast
Guard), posted above average results. Identifying this variation across
components could help target efforts to improve employee satisfaction.




Page 5                                                             GAO-12-509T
Table 1: DHS Component Job Satisfaction Scores, 2011

                                                                                                  Job            Difference from
                                                                                   satisfaction score   governmentwide average
DHS component                                                                            (percentage)        (percentage points)
Federal Law Enforcement Training Center                                                           72                          4
Office of the Inspector General                                                                   71                          3
U.S. Coast Guard                                                                                  70                          2
U.S. Secret Service                                                                               69                          1
U.S. Customs and Border Protection                                                                69                          1
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services                                                         67                          -1
Management Directorate                                                                            66                          -2
Office of the Secretary                                                                           63                          -5
Federal Emergency Management Administration                                                       63                          -5
National Protection and Programs Directorate                                                      62                          -6
Immigration and Customs Enforcement                                                               61                          -7
Undersecretary for Science and Technology                                                         60                          -8
Undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis                                                      58                         -10
Transportation Security Administration                                                            57                         -11
Governmentwide (average score)                                                                    68                          0
DHS (average score)                                                                               64                          -4
                                               Source: GAO analysis of DHS data.



                                               TSA performed analysis of its 2011 FEVS results to gain a better
                                               understanding of whether employee satisfaction varies across location,
                                               program office, or level. This analysis identified variation in job
                                               satisfaction within the component; specifically, with Federal Security
                                               Director staff at airports providing more positive responses for job
                                               satisfaction (69 percent positive) than the airport screening workforce (54
                                               percent positive), as shown in figure 1.




                                               Page 6                                                                GAO-12-509T
                          Figure 1: TSA Employee Group Responses to the Question: Considering
                          Everything, How Satisfied Are You With Your Job?




                          DHS has taken steps to identify where it has the most significant
DHS Has Ongoing           employee satisfaction problems and has developed plans for addressing
Actions to Address        those problem areas. DHS has conducted some analysis of employee
                          survey results and developed action plans to address some employee
Job Satisfaction, but     satisfaction problems, but it has not yet addressed the key goals related
Has Not Yet Improved      to job satisfaction—to improve DHS’s scores on OPM’s job satisfaction
Employee Satisfaction     index, among other indexes, and to improve its ranking on the
                          Partnership’s Best Places to Work in the Federal Government. The
Results                   results from our prior work at DHS and other departments identify a wide
                          variety of issues that can lead to employee morale problems. Thus,
                          conducting an analysis of the root causes of employee satisfaction
                          problems and developing plans to address them are important.


DHS Has Taken Action to   DHS’s job satisfaction scores could pose challenges to DHS in recruiting,
Address Employee          motivating, and retaining talented employees that DHS needs to meet its
Satisfaction Problems     mission requirements. Specifically, an agency’s reputation is a key factor
                          in recruiting and hiring applicants. A Partnership for Public Service report
                          published in 2010 noted that a good reputation is the most frequently
                          mentioned factor in choosing potential employers, and agencies with high
                          satisfaction and engagement scores were seen as desirable by college




                          Page 7                                                            GAO-12-509T
                  graduates seeking employment. 12 Similarly, the Merit Systems Protection
                  Board (MSPB) reported that employees’ willingness to recommend the
                  federal government or their agency as a place to work can directly affect
                  an agency’s recruitment efforts, the quality of the resulting applicant pool,
                  and the acceptance of employment offers. 13 In addition, MSPB noted that
                  prospective employees would rather work for an agency billed as one of
                  the best places to work compared to an agency at the bottom of the list.

                  DHS has taken or has a variety of actions under way or planned to
                  address employee satisfaction problems, including analyzing the results
                  of employee surveys and developing action plans to improve employee
                  satisfaction.

Survey Analyses   Components and DHS have used a variety of approaches to analyze
                  survey results to gain insight about employee satisfaction. As part of our
                  ongoing work on employee morale, we reviewed survey analyses
                  conducted by DHS’s Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer, TSA, and
                  U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

                  DHS. DHS completed an evaluation of the 2008 Federal Human Capital
                  Survey results to determine root causes of job satisfaction
                  departmentwide, according to DHS officials. 14 In that analysis, DHS
                  determined that the drivers of employee satisfaction across DHS included
                  the DHS mission, senior leadership effectiveness, and supervisor
                  support. According to DHS officials, DHS is currently working with a
                  contractor on a departmentwide analysis of root causes of employee
                  morale. As of March 2012, this analysis was not complete.

                  TSA. TSA’s analysis focused on areas of difficulty across groups, such as
                  pay and performance appraisal concerns, and also provides insight on
                  which employee groups within TSA may be more dissatisfied with their



                  12
                    Partnership for Public Service, Great Expectations: What Students Want in an
                  Employer, and How Federal Agencies can Deliver It (Washington, D.C.: January
                  2009).
                  13
                    Merit Systems Protection Board, The Federal Government: A Model Employer
                  or a Work in Progress? Perspectives from 25 Years of the Merit Principles
                  Survey (Washington, D.C.: September 2008).
                  14
                    The FEVS was preceded by the Federal Human Capital Survey, which
                  included the same questions asked in the FEVS.




                  Page 8                                                              GAO-12-509T
jobs than others. The analysis results are descriptive, showing where job
satisfaction problem areas may exist, and do not identify the causes of
dissatisfaction within employee groups. For the 2011 FEVS, TSA
benchmarked its results against CBP results, as well as against DHS and
governmentwide results. When comparing CBP and TSA scores, TSA
found that the greatest differences in scores were on questions related to
satisfaction with pay and with whether performance appraisals were a fair
reflection of performance. TSA scored 40 percentage points lower on pay
satisfaction and 25 percentage points lower on performance appraisal
satisfaction. In comparing TSA results to DHS and governmentwide
results, TSA found that TSA was below the averages for all FEVS
dimensions. 15 TSA also evaluated FEVS results across employee groups
by comparing dimension scores for headquarters staff, the Federal Air
Marshals, Federal Security Director staff, and the screening workforce.
TSA found that the screening workforce scored at or below scores for all
other groups across all of the dimensions.

ICE. ICE analyzed the 2011 FEVS results by identifying ICE’s top FEVS
questions with high positive and negative responses. ICE found that its
top strength was employees’ willingness to put in the extra effort to get a
job done. ICE’s top negative result was employees’ perception that pay
raises did not depend on how well employees perform their jobs. ICE did
not perform demographic analysis of the survey results or identify the
roots causes of employee satisfaction problems, but did benchmark its
results against DHS and governmentwide results, identifying those
questions and Human Capital Assessment and Accountability Framework
(HCAAF) indices where ICE led or trailed DHS and the government. 16 ICE
found, among other things, that employee views on the fairness of its
performance appraisals were above DHS’s average but that views on
employee preparation for potential security threats were lower. When
comparing ICE’s results with governmentwide figures, ICE found, among
other things, that ICE was lower on all of the HCAAF indices, including
job satisfaction.



15
  The FEVS includes questions grouped into the following dimensions: work
experiences, supervisor/team leader, agency, work unit, leadership, satisfaction,
and work/life.
16
   The HCAAF indices provide metrics for measuring progress toward OPM goals
for federal agencies, which include employee job satisfaction, leadership
effectiveness and knowledge management, a results-oriented performance
culture, and effective talent management.



Page 9                                                                GAO-12-509T
Action Plans   DHS and the components are taking actions that could improve employee
               satisfaction, with a focus on improving components’ positive responses to
               selected survey items.

               DHS’s Integrated Strategy for High Risk Management. In December
               2011, DHS provided us with its updated Integrated Strategy for High Risk
               Management (Integrated Strategy), which summarized the department’s
               plans for addressing its implementation and transformation high-risk
               designation. In the Integrated Strategy, DHS identified corrective actions
               to improve employee job satisfaction scores, among other things. The
               corrective actions include the Secretary issuing guidance to component
               heads to address gaps in the 2011 FEVS results; launch of an Employee
               Engagement Executive Steering Committee, which held its first meeting
               in February 2012; implementation in June 2009 of an online reporting and
               action planning tool for components; and execution of a DHS-wide exit
               survey in January 2011 for departing employees to gain additional insight
               into why employees are leaving the department. 17 According to the
               Integrated Strategy, DHS has begun implementing corrective actions but
               has not yet achieved its key outcome related to job satisfaction—to
               improve DHS’s scores on OPM’s job satisfaction index, among other
               indexes, and to improve its ranking on the Partnership’s Best Places to
               Work in the Federal Government. According to the Integrated Strategy,
               FEVS index scores did not improve appreciably relative to
               governmentwide averages from 2010 to 2011. DHS’s Partnership ranking
               also remains near last among federal agencies.

               Within the Integrated Strategy action plan for improving job satisfaction
               scores, DHS reported that three of six efforts were hindered by a lack of
               resources. For example, fewer resources were available than anticipated
               for DHS’s Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer to consult with
               components in developing action plans in response to 2011 FEVS results.
               Similarly, fewer resources were available than planned to deploy online
               focus discussions on job satisfaction-related issues. Sufficient resource
               planning to address the key high-risk human capital outcome of enhanced
               employee satisfaction scores is essential as DHS works to transform itself
               into a high-performing department.




               17
                 The Employee Engagement Executive Steering Committee’s purpose is to
               address areas of improvement identified in the 2011 FEVS.




               Page 10                                                         GAO-12-509T
                                         DHS and component action plans. We reviewed the most recent DHS
                                         action plans to address 2011 FEVS outcomes departmentwide as well as
                                         component plans for TSA, the Coast Guard, CBP, and ICE. The plans
                                         state objectives and identify actions to be taken, among other things.
                                         Examples of initiatives from the plans are listed in table 2.

Table 2: DHS-wide and TSA, Coast Guard, CBP and ICE Action Plan Initiatives

DHS unit             Action plan initiatives
DHS-wide             Enhance leadership, recruitment, employee retention, and DHS unification.
TSA                  Launch a corporate action planning team to study employee issues and develop recommendations, enhance
                     employee performance management, and improve TSA communication mechanisms.
ICE                  Advance telework opportunities, increase communication between employees and management, and develop
                     an awards handbook for distribution to employees.
CBP                  Address results, enhance communication between management and employees, create career and leadership
                     development opportunities, replace pass/fail performance appraisal with multi-leveled performance
                     management system, implement training improvements, and maintain an existing virtual focus group to enable
                     upward feedback to senior leaders.
Coast Guard          Improve communication with employees and training options.
                                         Source: GAO analysis of DHS-wide TSA, Coast Guard, CBP, and ICE 2011 action plans based on FEVS results.



                                         As part of our ongoing work, we are comparing DHS and component
                                         action plans with OPM guidance for action planning and will report on our
                                         results in September 2012.


Several Issues Can                       Our prior work at DHS and other departments and agencies illustrates the
Contribute to Employee                   variety of issues that can lead to morale problems.
Dissatisfaction
                                         •     In July 2009, we reported that the funding challenges FPS faced in
                                               fiscal year 2008 and its cost savings actions to address them resulted
                                               in adverse implications for its workforce, primarily low morale among
                                               staff and increase attrition. 18

                                         •     In June 2011, we reported that the Federal Emergency Management
                                               Agency’s (FEMA) human capital plan did not have strategies to




                                         18
                                           GAO, Homeland Security: Federal Protective Service Should Improve Human
                                         Capital Planning and Better Communicate with Tenants, GAO-09-749
                                         (Washington, D.C.: July 30, 2009).




                                         Page 11                                                                                                    GAO-12-509T
     address retention challenges, among other things. 19 FEMA
     experienced frequent turnover in key positions and divisions that
     could result in lost productivity, a decline in institutional knowledge,
     and a lack of continuity for remaining staff. We recommended that
     FEMA develop a comprehensive workforce plan that addressed
     retention issues, among other things. FEMA concurred with the
     recommendation and noted that a contractor had begun work on a
     new human capital plan.

•    In August 2011, we reported that the Forest Service’s centralization of
     human resources management and information technology services
     contributed to several agencywide improvements, but it has also had
     widespread, largely negative effects on field-unit employees. Under
     centralization, the agency relies on a self-service approach whereby
     employees are generally responsible for independently initiating or
     carrying out many related business service tasks. Field-unit
     employees consistently told us that these increased administrative
     responsibilities, coupled with problems with automated systems and
     customer support, have negatively affected their ability to carry out
     their mission work and have led to lower employee morale. 20

•    In June 2009, we reported that employees from a number of different
     agencies and pay systems worked overseas in proximity to one
     another. Each of these pay systems was authorized by a separate
     statute that outlines the compensation to which employees under that
     system are entitled, certain elements of which are set without regard
     to the location in which the employees are working. We reported that
     when these employees are assigned overseas and serve side by side,
     the differences in pay systems may become more apparent and may
     adversely affect morale. 21




19
  GAO, FEMA: Action Needed to Improve Administration of the National Flood
Insurance Program, GAO-11-297 (Washington, D.C.: June 9, 2011).
20
  GAO, Forest Service Business Services: Further Actions Needed to Re-
examine Centralization Approach and to Better Document Associated Costs,
GAO-11-769 (Washington, D.C.: Aug. 25, 2011).
21
  GAO, Human Capital: Actions Needed to Better Track and Provide Timely and
Accurate Compensation and Medical Benefits to Deployed Federal Civilians,
GAO-09-562 (Washington, D.C.: June 26, 2009).




Page 12                                                              GAO-12-509T
                  •    In September 2008, we reported that the 2004 and 2006 employee
                       survey results for the Small Business Administration (SBA) showed a
                       lack of respect for and trust in SBA leadership and a concern about
                       training opportunities. 22 The SBA Administrator’s efforts to address
                       the survey results included soliciting information from employees and
                       visiting field locations to obtain their input on how to improve agency
                       operations and morale.

                  The variation in potential issues that can result in morale problems
                  underscores the importance of looking beyond survey scores to
                  understand where problems, such as low employee satisfaction, are
                  taking place within the organization, along with the root causes of those
                  problems. Effective root cause analysis can help agencies better target
                  efforts to develop action plans and programs to address the key drivers of
                  employee satisfaction.

                  Given the critical nature of DHS’s mission to protect the security and
                  economy of our nation, it is important that DHS employees are satisfied
                  with their jobs so that DHS can retain and attract the talent required to
                  complete its work. We will continue to monitor and assess DHS’s efforts
                  to address employee job satisfaction through our ongoing work and
                  expect to issue a report on our final results in September 2012.


                  Chairman McCaul, Ranking Member Keating, and Members of the
                  Subcommittee, this concludes my prepared statement. I would be
                  pleased to respond to any questions that you may have at this time.


                  For questions about this statement, please contact David C. Maurer at
GAO Contact and   (202) 512-9627 or maurerd@gao.gov. Contact points for our Offices of
Staff             Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last page
                  of this statement. Individuals making key contributions to this statement
Acknowledgments   include Sandra Burrell, Assistant Director; Ben Atwater, Analyst-in-
                  Charge; and Jean Orland. Other contributors include Alice Feldesman,
                  Tracey King, Kirsten Lauber, Margaret McKenna, Lara Miklozek, and



                  22
                    GAO, Small Business Administration: Opportunities Exist to Build on
                  Leadership’s Efforts to Improve Agency Performance and Employee Morale,
                  GAO-08-995 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 24, 2008).




                  Page 13                                                           GAO-12-509T
Jeff Tessin. Key contributors for the previous work that this testimony is
based on are listed in each product.




Page 14                                                           GAO-12-509T
Appendix I: Comparison of DHS and Non-
                                              Appendix I: Comparison of DHS and Non-DHS
                                              Responses to Key Survey Questions



DHS Responses to Key Survey Questions


                                                                                        Percentage              Percentage
                                                                                           positive:              Positive:   Difference: DHS
Survey question                                                                      Excluding DHS                    DHS     minus non-DHS
My talents are used well in the workplace.                                                           61.6              49.7                -11.8
I am given a real opportunity to improve my skills in my
organization.                                                                                        66.0              56.0                 -9.9
Managers communicate the goals and priorities of the
organization.                                                                                        65.3              55.7                 -9.6
Employees have a feeling of personal empowerment with respect
to work processes.                                                                                   49.2              39.6                 -9.6
How satisfied are you with your involvement in decisions that
affect your work?                                                                                    54.2              44.7                 -9.5
How satisfied are you with the policies and practices of your
senior leaders?                                                                                      46.4              37.1                 -9.3
My work gives me a feeling of personal accomplishment.                                               74.6              65.9                 -8.7
How satisfied are you with the information you receive from
management on what’s going on in your organization?                                                  51.4              42.9                 -8.6
How satisfied are you with the recognition you receive for doing a
good job?                                                                                            51.4              42.9                 -8.6
I have a high level of respect for my organization’s senior leaders.                                 57.3              49.4                 -7.9
How satisfied are you with your opportunity to get a better job in
your organization?                                                                                   40.1              35.1                 -5.0
How satisfied are you with the training you receive for your
present job?                                                                                         55.3              50.7                 -4.6
Overall, how good a job do you feel is being done by your
immediate supervisor/team leader?                                                                    69.6              66.1                 -3.5
Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your pay?                                                                    Not statistically
                                                                                                     62.6              61.6          significant
I like the kind of work I do.                                                                        85.0              84.1                 -1.0
My workload is reasonable.                                                                           58.9              60.6                  1.7
                                              Source: GAO analysis of 2011 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

                                              Note: All percentage estimates have 95 percent margins of error equal to +/- 1 percentage point.
                                              Percentage differences between DHS and the rest of government are statistically distinguishable from
                                              zero at the .02 level, except where noted.




                                              Page 15                                                                               GAO-12-509T
Related GAO Products
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             Forest Service Business Services: Further Actions Needed to Re-
             examine Centralization Approach and to Better Document Associated
             Costs. GAO-11-769. Washington, D.C.: August 25, 2011.

             FEMA: Action Needed to Improve Administration of the National Flood
             Insurance Program. GAO-11-297. Washington, D.C.: June 9, 2011.

             High-Risk Series: An Update. GAO-11-278. .Washington, D.C.: February
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             Department of Homeland Security: Progress Made in Implementation and
             Transformation of Management Functions, but More Work Remains.
             GAO-10-911T. Washington, D.C.: September 30, 2010.

             Homeland Security: Preliminary Observations on the Federal Protective
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             Homeland Security: Federal Protective Service Should Improve Human
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             Human Capital: Actions Needed to Better Track and Provide Timely and
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             Civilians. GAO-09-562. Washington, D.C.: June 26, 2009.

             Small Business Administration: Opportunities Exist to Build on
             Leadership’s Efforts to Improve Agency Performance and Employee
             Morale. GAO-08-995. Washington, D.C.: September 24, 2008.

             High-Risk Series: Strategic Human Capital Management. GAO-03-120.
             Washington, D.C.: January 2003.

             High-Risk Series: An Update. GAO-03-119. Washington, D.C.: January
             2003.




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             Page 16                                                      GAO-12-509T
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