New Report on Lack of Permanent Leadership at DHS

From the DHS Office of Inspector General: Lack of Permanent Leadership Compounded DHS Challenges

A new Inspector General (OIG) report defined the most pressing challenges facing the third largest federal agency as:

  • Managing Programs and Operations Effectively and Efficiently during times of Changes in Leadership, Vacancies, and Hiring Difficulties;
  • Coordinating Efforts to Address the Sharp Increase in Migrants Seeking to Enter the United States through our Southern Border;
  • Ensuring Cybersecurity in an Age When Confidentiality, Integrity, and the Availability of Information Technology Are Essential to Mission Operations;
  • Ensuring Proper Financial Planning, Payments, and Internal Controls; and
  • Improving FEMA’s Disaster Response and Recovery Efforts.


Update on earlier posting.  The Diva mentioned this new RAND report two days ago, but had not yet read it. I want to call it to reader’s attention because it contains some significant findings.

From the Homeland Security Digital Library, this discussion of a new report from RAND. See: Disaster Response, FEMA, and the DoD; A Relationship in Progress. See this abstract from RAND.

Here is the direct link to the Rand Report: Improving DOD Support to FEMA’s All-Hazards Plans.(78 pages). The summary and the charts on pages 11-13 give you a quick idea of the inadequacies of FEMA’s efforts to date.

The Diva invites reader comments because she is out of her league on this topic.  Two colleagues will address this report today – Bill Cumming on Homeland Security Watch and Eric Holdeman in Disaster-Zone.

Effects on FEMA of a DHS Shutdown – Comments by Fugate

FEMA head outlines what exactly will happen if DHS shuts down


From the New Yorker: Threats to Homeland Security. Best quote I have seen lately:

You can’t spend decades encouraging irrationality and ignorance, then declare a return to sanity when it’s convenient. The price lasts longer than an election cycle.

CBS news had this account today: 5 things that will happen if Congress doesn’t fund Homeland Security

FEMA employees will mostly report for duty: Johnson said in the same CNN interview that “something like 80 percent” of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) “permanent appropriated workers” would stay home. That statement ignores the fact that many of the agency’s workers aren’t funded through the annual appropriations process, according to a review. The 2013 DHS report found that that 78 percent of FEMA’s 14,729 employees would stay on the job if the agency went unfunded. Plus, more than one-third of FEMA’s disaster workforce comes from reservists, according to a Government Accountability Office report, and they aren’t reliant on annual funding from Congress

Here is the NYTimes’ version of the story: Holding DHS Hostage.

DHS Morale Still Low

See this article in the Washington Post today: Feds unhappy with leaders, new government survey finds. Of the 19 agencies rated, DHS was #19. Here are some excerpts:

Federal workers are increasingly dismayed by what they see as weak leadership across government, according to a survey released Tuesday that finds employees’ job satisfaction at its lowest point since Congress required the first workplace appraisal 11 years ago.

Despite continued positive feedback at some agencies and improving morale at others, just 56.9 percent of employees are happy with their jobs and would recommend their agencies as places to work, the annual “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” rankings say.

For example, the Department of Homeland Security, the agency tasked with providing administrative relief and work permits to as many as 3.7 million undocumented parents and 300,000 children, ranked at the bottom of large agencies for a third year running, with employee satisfaction and commitment at 44 percent.

Trouble Looming: Congress Emboldened to Make Dumb Decisions

Last week I posted an article about the failures of our legislative and executive branches in Washington, D.C. Here are two more examples of possible congressional action, done in part as retribution for the President’s executive actions on immigration. One possible action is aimed at DHS and another at EPA.

(1) Homeland Security Head Implies His Current Budget Puts the Country at Risk. Some excerpts:

House Republicans, seeking to retaliate against President Obama’s controversial executive order protecting more than four million illegal immigrants from deportation, plan to keep the department responsible for implementing the order on a short budgetary leash through early next year.

GOP lawmakers revealed a strategy Tuesday to fund most of the government through next September – the end of the current fiscal year – but provide only a short-term funding extension, or a “continuing resolution,” for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The massive DHS oversees immigration and border security and will implement the president’s immigration action.

(2) Fossil-fuel lobbyists, bolstered by GOP wins, work to curb environmental rules. An excerpt:

The power of anti-EPA sentiment in Washington was evident last week when the incoming chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), a vocal denier of science showing a human role in climate change, sent a letter demanding that the EPA withdraw the new power-plant limits.


DHS Morale Sinks Again – Oct. 13

From the WashPost today:  DHS morale sinks further despite new leadership at the top, survey shows.  Some key points:

While the survey shows that the vast majority of DHS employees are hard-working and dedicated to their mission to protect the homeland, many say the department discourages innovation, treats employees in an arbitrary fashion and fails to recruit skilled personnel. [emphasis added]

Over the past four years, employees have left DHS at a rate nearly twice as fast as for the federal government overall, according to a review of a federal database.

I find it really sad that the organizational home for emergency management at the national level is in a department that is so troubled.  So many dedicated and hard-working people want to be part of the EM field but the work environment is not efficient, effective, or supportive.

I try, and urge others to do so to, not to blame FEMA personnel for the organizational and structural disfunction of their employer.


Streamlining Oversight of the DHS

Once again the Washington Post has addressed some of the organizations concerns and the severe deficiencies of the Congressional oversight of  DHS.  See: Department of Homeland Security has 120 reasons to want streamlined oversight. From the lead in to the article:

The Department of Homeland Security is, by all accounts, not the easiest place to work. The pressure is high, the job is hard and morale in recent years has been about as low as it can get.

But perhaps the most universally frustrating part of working for DHS, according to numerous former and current officials, is the byzantine congressional oversight.

More than 90 committees and subcommittees have some jurisdiction over DHS, nearly three times the number that oversee the Defense Department. And that doesn’t count nearly 30 other congressional bodies such as task forces and commissions.