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By Phil Piemonte

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Are some of the issues that plague DHS creeping your way?

"We do a great disservice to hundreds of thousands of federal employees when a constrained fiscal environment is interpreted as a referendum on the value of public service."

Most feds would probably agree with that.

The speaker was retired U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad W. Allen, in his March 22 testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management.

The topic of that hearing was morale at the Department of Homeland Security. But Allen—a former commandant of the Coast Guard, and now a senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton—easily could have been talking about the federal workforce as a whole in the quote above.

While Allen aimed his testimony at the problems at DHS, his discourse on the nature of morale—and the ways it is affected by factors such as leadership, work environment, mission support architecture, and planning and coordination—easily could apply to any federal department or agency.

The same goes for some of the problems Allen described that exist at DHS. While the following list of concerns certainly is pertinent at DHS, one could argue that in today’s hyper-politicized and media-intensive environment, these particular issues also have come to hound agencies across the entire government.

Some of the top ones Allen says have dogged DHS:

(1) Public “zero tolerance” for failure.
(2) Unrelenting media scrutiny.
(3) Duplicative oversight.
(4) The inevitable immediate public discourse and referendum on departmental performance while operations are being conducted.

Certainly folks at the Transportation Security Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other DHS components would agree.

But these days, one could argue that a lot of non-DHS feds are in the same boat, and are increasingly being affected by the same pressures.

You’re a fed—what do you think?

Posted by Phil Piemonte on Mar 26, 2012 at 4:02 PM

Reader comments

Fri, Mar 30, 2012

I'm guessing a lot of comments were not posted because of their severe critical assessment of what passes for leadership in DHS. - Glad to be gone from Customs and Border Protection where it seems leadership is non-existent; where people are advanced too fast and for the wrong reasons; where gender-preference in leadership positions is a major threat to the agency's ability to manage effectively; where ASPD's have demonstrated that they know nothing about people management and CARE nothing for the officers in their charge: they simply don't know how to CARE about anything other than their prestige and personal agenda. - I'm not particularly fond of unions but I really hope NTEU creates enough propwash to force serious restructuring in CBP along the northern border: lots of money being wasted on ASPD's, their over-staffing and gender-favoritism there. - I believe Congressional blindness and EEO policy are the two major problems with DHS. But, I'm glad that most of the men and women on the line have the Integrity that management lacks to get the job done.

Fri, Mar 30, 2012

I don't even tell anyone that I work for the Govt. any more. They all think I am going to have such a great retirement......Anything I get out in retirement is because I PUT IT IN THERE. I get tired of the public thinking that we have such great salaries too. I make less than 50k a year with not quite 20 yrs of service. My retirement won't be so terrific. I know someone that is a GS-14 making about 200k per year and he complains. He does have a vacation home though. Let Congress have their retirement taxed instead of us. Their offices don't do without.

Wed, Mar 28, 2012 Paul

Morale for our organization hasn't been as bad as it probably should be under the circumstances but I think it's because we focus on the mission and come home satisfied that we saved lives. Most of us have also served in uniform, something Congress seems to forget as well, so we're used to things going #$% up and have learned to adapt to the environment. The problem is that it's one thing to have an enemy firing at you, you can accept as the reality of the situation, but this is like being "fragged". At the end of the day, the unfortunate consequence is that we have to look at Congress as the enemy, both to our military and the country as a whole. This is simply not a healthy situation.

Wed, Mar 28, 2012

In regard to the post "Bullying in the workplace is the greatest cause for low morale. Workplace Bullying was defined as "repeated mistreatment: sabotage by others that prevented work from getting done, verbal abuse, threatening conduct, intimidation, & humiliation." Unless and until bullying is addressed, low morale will continue to be a persistent problem." We don't call it bullying in the workplace at the VA, we call it Supervisors SOP.

Tue, Mar 27, 2012 ADNK NY

A non-partisan civil service is what DEFINES a functioning Democracy. It is getting your driver's license or passport for the price advertised, without expecting to grease palms all the way up the line. It is being treated as a CITIZEN, regardless of social status or the change in your pocket. Is if perfect? Is it free from graft? Not entirely, but the fact of the matter is that we strive towards excellence. This is the heart and soul of public service. The incessant demonization is demoralizing and exhausting.

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