September 28, 2021

News

News Network

DHS Employee Morale: Some Improvements Made, but Additional Actions Needed to Strengthen Employee Engagement

11 min read
<div>The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and each of its major components face the same key drivers of employee engagement—as measured by the Office of Personnel Management's Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (OPM FEVS)—as the rest of the federal government (see table). Higher scores on the OPM FEVS indicate that an agency has the conditions that lead to higher employee engagement, a component of morale. Key Drivers of Employee Engagement across the Federal Government, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and within Each DHS Component Agency DHS has implemented department-wide employee engagement initiatives, including efforts to support DHS employees and their families. Additionally, DHS's major operational components, such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration, among others, have developed annual action plans to improve employee engagement. However, DHS has not issued written guidance on action planning and components do not consistently include key elements in their plans, such as outcome-based performance measures. Establishing required action plan elements through written guidance and monitoring the components to ensure they use measures to assess the results of their actions to adjust, reprioritize, and identify new actions to improve employee engagement would better position DHS to make additional gains in this area. In addition, approval from the DHS Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer (OCHCO) and component leadership for these plans would help ensure department-wide commitment to improving employee engagement. DHS has faced challenges with low employee morale and engagement—an employee's sense of purpose and commitment—since it began operations in 2003. DHS has made some progress in this area, but data from the 2019 OPM FEVS show that DHS continues to rank lowest among similarly-sized federal agencies. GAO has reported that increasing employee engagement can lead to improved agency performance, and it is critical that DHS do so given the importance of its missions. GAO was asked to review DHS employee morale. This report addresses (1) drivers of employee engagement at DHS and (2) the extent that DHS has initiatives to improve employee engagement and ensures effective engagement action planning. To answer these objectives, GAO used regression analyses of 2019 OPM FEVS data to identify the key drivers of engagement at DHS. GAO also reviewed component employee engagement action plans and met with officials from DHS and component human capital offices as well as unions and employee groups. GAO is making three recommendations. DHS OCHCO should, in its anticipated written guidance, establish the elements required in employee engagement action plans and the approval process for these plans. OCHCO should also monitor components' action planning to ensure they review and assess the results of their actions to improve employee engagement. DHS concurred with GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact Chris Currie at (404) 679-1875 or CurrieC@gao.gov.</div>

What GAO Found

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and each of its major components face the same key drivers of employee engagement—as measured by the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (OPM FEVS)—as the rest of the federal government (see table). Higher scores on the OPM FEVS indicate that an agency has the conditions that lead to higher employee engagement, a component of morale.

Key Drivers of Employee Engagement across the Federal Government, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and within Each DHS Component Agency

DHS has implemented department-wide employee engagement initiatives, including efforts to support DHS employees and their families. Additionally, DHS’s major operational components, such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration, among others, have developed annual action plans to improve employee engagement. However, DHS has not issued written guidance on action planning and components do not consistently include key elements in their plans, such as outcome-based performance measures. Establishing required action plan elements through written guidance and monitoring the components to ensure they use measures to assess the results of their actions to adjust, reprioritize, and identify new actions to improve employee engagement would better position DHS to make additional gains in this area. In addition, approval from the DHS Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer (OCHCO) and component leadership for these plans would help ensure department-wide commitment to improving employee engagement.

Why GAO Did This Study

DHS has faced challenges with low employee morale and engagement—an employee’s sense of purpose and commitment—since it began operations in 2003. DHS has made some progress in this area, but data from the 2019 OPM FEVS show that DHS continues to rank lowest among similarly-sized federal agencies. GAO has reported that increasing employee engagement can lead to improved agency performance, and it is critical that DHS do so given the importance of its missions.

GAO was asked to review DHS employee morale. This report addresses (1) drivers of employee engagement at DHS and (2) the extent that DHS has initiatives to improve employee engagement and ensures effective engagement action planning. To answer these objectives, GAO used regression analyses of 2019 OPM FEVS data to identify the key drivers of engagement at DHS. GAO also reviewed component employee engagement action plans and met with officials from DHS and component human capital offices as well as unions and employee groups.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making three recommendations. DHS OCHCO should, in its anticipated written guidance, establish the elements required in employee engagement action plans and the approval process for these plans. OCHCO should also monitor components’ action planning to ensure they review and assess the results of their actions to improve employee engagement. DHS concurred with GAO’s recommendations.

For more information, contact Chris Currie at (404) 679-1875 or CurrieC@gao.gov.

More from:

News Network

  • Substance Use Disorder: Reliable Data Needed for Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant Program
    In U.S GAO News
    According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) data, the number of substance use disorder (SUD) treatment facilities and services increased since 2009. However, potential gaps in treatment capacity remain. For example, SAMHSA data show that, as of May 2020, most counties did not have all levels of SUD treatment available, including outpatient, residential, and hospital inpatient services; nearly one-third of counties had no levels of treatment available. Stakeholders GAO interviewed said it is important to have access to each level for treating individuals with varying SUD severity. Availability of Substance Use Disorder Treatment Levels, by County, as of May 2020 SAMHSA primarily relies on the number of individuals served to assess the effect of three of its largest grant programs on access to SUD treatment and recovery support services. However, GAO found the agency lacks two elements of reliable data—that they be consistent and relevant—for the number of individuals served under the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant (SABG) program. For example, grantee reporting includes individuals served outside of the program, which limits this measure's relevance for program assessment of access. SAMHSA plans to implement data quality improvements for the SABG program starting in fiscal year 2021. However, the agency has not identified specific changes needed to improve the information it collects on individuals served. As SAMHSA moves forward with its plans, it will be important for it to identify and implement such changes. Doing so will allow SAMHSA to better assess whether the SABG program is achieving a key goal of improving access to SUD treatment and recovery services or whether changes may be needed. Treatment for SUD—the recurrent use of substances, such as illicit drugs, causing significant impairment—can help individuals reduce or stop substance use and improve their quality of life. SUDs, and in particular drug misuse, have been a persistent and long-standing public health issue in the United States. Senate Report 115-289 contains a provision for GAO to review SUD treatment capacity. This report, among other things, describes what is known about SUD treatment facilities, services, and overall capacity; and examines the information SAMHSA uses to assess the effect of three grant programs on access to SUD treatment. GAO analyzed national SAMHSA data on SUD treatment facilities and providers, and reviewed studies that assessed treatment capacity. GAO also reviewed documentation for three of SAMHSA's largest grant programs available to states, and compared the agency's grant data quality to federal internal control standards. Finally, GAO interviewed SAMHSA officials and stakeholders, including provider groups. GAO is recommending that SAMHSA identify and implement changes to the SABG program's data collection efforts to improve two elements of reliability—the consistency and relevance—of data collected on individuals served. SAMHSA concurred with this recommendation. For more information, contact Alyssa M. Hundrup at (202) 512-7114 or HundrupA@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Pompeo’s Call with Uzbekistan Foreign Minister Kamilov
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Finland National Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Former South Carolina Sheriff and Former Deputies Convicted of Conspiracy, Misuse of Funds, and Other Offenses
    In Crime News
    More from: April 26, 2021 [Read More…]
  • Secretary Blinken’s Call with Afghan President Ghani
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Attorney General Merrick B. Garland’s Statement on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day
    In Crime News
    Attorney General Merrick B. Garland issued the following statement:
    [Read More…]
  • U.S.-Europe Communiqué on Afghanistan and Peace Efforts
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • COVID-19: Emergency Financial Aid for College Students under the CARES Act
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found As of November 2020, the Department of Education (Education) had distributed $6.19 billion in grants to 4,778 schools (colleges and other institutions of higher education) that had applied for emergency student aid funds from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) established by the CARES Act, which was enacted in March 2020. After many schools closed their physical campuses in spring 2020 in response to COVID-19, Education provided these grants to schools, based on a statutory formula, to give emergency financial assistance (student aid) to students who incurred related expenses, such as for housing, technology, and course materials. The majority of these HEERF student aid funds have been awarded to public schools (see figure). The average amount Education awarded per school was about $1.3 million, while amounts schools received ranged from less than $2,000 to more than $27 million, with half of schools receiving awards of $422,000 or less. Education data show that, as of November 2020, schools had drawn down about 90 percent—or $5.6 billion—of their HEERF student aid funds. About 70 percent of schools had drawn down all of their student aid funds, and an additional 24 percent of schools had drawn down at least half. Department of Education’s Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) Awards to Schools for Emergency Student Aid under the CARES Act, by School Sector Notes: Schools of less than 2 years are included in the 2-year school categories above. The Department of Education also awarded about $24 million to 2-year private, nonprofit schools and about $1.7 million to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Department of Education. Sector-level figures do not add up to $6.19 billion because of rounding. Schools used a variety of approaches to determine student eligibility and distribute funds to students. According to GAO’s analysis of a sample of school websites and data from Education, schools had distributed approximately 85 percent of all emergency student aid funds by fall 2020, with an average amount per student of about $830. Determining student eligibility. Approximately half of schools reported that they required a completed Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)—the form used to apply for federal financial aid—to determine student eligibility for HEERF student aid. For example, one school reported requiring students who did not have a FAFSA on file to complete one by June 2020 to be eligible for student aid. Other schools did not require a FAFSA to establish eligibility, according to their websites, but reported using alternative methods. For example, a 4-year public school reported that graduate students applying for emergency aid had the option of submitting a school-provided affidavit certifying they were eligible to receive federal financial aid, an option described in Education’s interim final rule on student eligibility. Awarding funds to students. Schools reported using two main methods for awarding HEERF emergency student aid to students: requiring students to complete a school-developed application or using existing school records. Approximately 18 percent of schools used a combination of both methods. For example, a 4-year nonprofit school reported on its website that it awarded $300 to $500 to eligible students in its first round of funding based on existing student financial aid records, and then allowed students who had more expenses related to COVID-19 to apply for additional funding. Determining award amounts. Schools reported using various factors to determine award amounts for HEERF-eligible students. Over half of schools reported on their websites that amounts were based on individual circumstances, such as students’ general financial need, access to essential items such as food or housing, or a combination of these factors. About 20 percent of schools also reported using full-time or part-time status to determine aid amounts. For example, a 4-year public school reported that it distributed grants, ranging from $150 to $1,000, to all eligible students based on their enrollment status and financial need based on students’ FAFSA information. Why GAO Did This Study In June 2020, GAO issued the first of a series of reports on federal efforts to address the pandemic, which included a discussion of HEERF student aid grants to schools. At that time, limited information on how schools distributed HEERF funds to students was available. This report provides additional information and examines (1) how HEERF emergency student aid funds were provided to schools under the CARES Act, and (2) how schools distributed emergency student aid to eligible students. GAO analyzed Education’s obligation data as of November 2020, after Education had obligated most of the HEERF emergency student aid funds. GAO also analyzed information about HEERF student aid that Education requires schools to report on their websites by selecting a generalizable random sample of 203 schools for website reviews. These schools were representative of the more than 4,500 schools that received HEERF student aid funds as of August 2020. GAO also collected non-generalizable narrative details about how schools distributed funds to eligible students.
    [Read More…]
  • Las Vegas Resident Sentenced to Prison for Elder Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    A Las Vegas resident who participated in a fraudulent prize-notification scheme that bilked victims out of more than $9 million was sentenced today to federal prison, the Department of Justice announced.
    [Read More…]
  • Real Estate Investor Pleads Guilty to Rigging Bids at Foreclosure Auctions
    In Crime News
    A California man pleaded guilty yesterday to rigging bids at public foreclosure auctions.
    [Read More…]
  • Benin Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
  • Indonesia National Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Security Assistance: State and DOD Need to Assess How the Foreign Military Financing Program for Egypt Achieves U.S. Foreign Policy and Security Goals
    In U.S GAO News
    Since 1979, Egypt has received about $60 billion in military and economic assistance with about $34 billion in the form of foreign military financing (FMF) grants that enable Egypt to purchase U.S.-manufactured military goods and services. In this report, GAO (1) describes the types and amounts of FMF assistance provided to Egypt; (2) assesses the financing arrangements used to provide FMF assistance to Egypt; and (3) evaluates how the U.S. assesses the program's contribution to U.S. foreign policy and security goals.Egypt is currently among the largest recipients of U.S. foreign assistance, along with Israel, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Egypt has received about $1.3 billion annually in U.S. foreign military financing (FMF) assistance and has purchased a variety of U.S.-manufactured military goods and services such as Apache helicopters, F-16 aircraft, and M1A1 tanks, as well as the training and maintenance to support these systems. The United States has provided Egypt with FMF assistance through a statutory cash flow financing arrangement that permits flexibility in how Egypt acquires defense goods and services from the United States. In the past, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) accumulated large undisbursed balances in this program. Because the flexibilities of cash flow financing permit Egypt to pay for its purchases over time, Egypt currently has agreements for U.S. defense articles and services worth over $2 billion--some of which are not due for full payment until 2011. The Departments of State (State) and Defense (DOD) have not conducted an assessment to identify the risks and impacts of a potential shift in FMF funding. Officials and many experts assert that the FMF program to Egypt supports U.S. foreign policy and security goals; however, State and DOD do not assess how the program specifically contributes to these goals. U.S. and Egyptian officials cited examples of Egypt's support for U.S. interests, such as maintaining Egyptian-Israeli peace and providing access to the Suez Canal and Egyptian airspace. DOD has not determined how it will measure progress in achieving key goals such as interoperability and modernizing Egypt's military. For example, the U.S. Central Command, the responsible military authority, defines modernization as the ratio of U.S.-to-Soviet equipment in Egypt's inventory and does not include other potentially relevant factors, such as readiness or military capabilities. Achieving interoperability in Egypt is complicated by the lack of a common definition of interoperability and limitations on some types of sensitive equipment transfers. Given the longevity and magnitude of FMF assistance to Egypt, evaluating the degree to which the program meets its goals would be important information for congressional oversight, particularly as Congress assesses the balance between economic and military assistance to Egypt as well as the impact on U.S. foreign policy interests.
    [Read More…]
  • United States Files Complaint and Reaches Agreement on Stipulation with Limetree Bay Terminals LLC and Limetree Bay Refining LLC Relating to Petroleum Refinery in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
    In Crime News
    Today, the U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), filed a complaint in federal court in the U.S. Virgin Islands against Limetree Bay Terminals LLC and Limetree Bay Refining LLC (jointly Limetree Bay) alleging that the companies’ St. Croix petroleum refinery presents an imminent and substantial danger to public health and the environment. In a stipulation filed simultaneously with the complaint that acknowledges that the refinery is not currently operating and that Limetree Bay does not intend to restart the refinery at the present time, Limetree Bay has agreed to a number of requirements, including the following:
    [Read More…]
  • U.S. Promoter of Foreign Cryptocurrency Companies Pleads Guilty for Role in Multimillion-Dollar Securities Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    A California man pleaded guilty today in the Eastern District of New York for his participation in a coordinated cryptocurrency and securities fraud scheme through purported digital currency platforms and foreign-based financial accounts.
    [Read More…]
  • Release of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy-Republic of Korea New Southern Policy Joint Fact Sheet
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Indian Cancer Drug Manufacturer Agrees to Plead Guilty and Pay $50 Million for Concealing and Destroying Records in Advance of FDA Inspection
    In Crime News
    Indian drug manufacturer Fresenius Kabi Oncology Limited (FKOL) has agreed to plead guilty to concealing and destroying records prior to a 2013 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plant inspection and pay $50 million in fines and forfeiture, the Department of Justice announced today.
    [Read More…]
  • Operation Legend: Case of the Day
    In Crime News
    Each weekday, the Department of Justice will highlight a case that has resulted from Operation Legend.  Today’s case is out of the Northern District of Illinois.  Operation Legend launched in Chicago on July 22, 2020, in response to the city facing increased homicide and non-fatal shooting rates.
    [Read More…]
  • The Republic of Kenya’s National Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Joint Press Statement on the 11th U.S.-Japan Policy Cooperation Dialogue on the Internet Economy
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
Network News © 2005 Area.Control.Network™ All rights reserved.