Homeland Security's Big Problem: Staff Keep Quitting

Department grapples with morale problems
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 22, 2014 7:50 AM CDT
Homeland Security Reels as Top Brass Keep Quitting
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testifies before the House Committee on Homeland Security during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 17, 2014.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

One of the biggest challenges faced by the Department of Homeland Security is an internal one: Top staff members keep quitting, and it's hampering officials in their efforts to fight external dangers. In the past four years, the rate of departure from the department has been almost double the rate across the federal government, the Washington Post reports. Many of those heading elsewhere are department bosses. To wit: Six people have headed the terror-intelligence branch of the department under President Obama, while the same number of commissioners have led Customs and Border Protection; four of them weren't even confirmed by the Senate.

The department's problem has existed since its inception. One major factor is the appeal of far higher-paying private firms, especially when working for DHS means constant scrutiny. With some 90 congressional panels exerting oversight, hearings are frequent. "There were certainly times where you would say, ‘I just got the crap kicked out of me, and I’m making way less than I can make in the private sector,'" says an ex-DHS official. Private jobs are even more attractive given the department's serious issues with morale; last year, a survey on the "Best Places to Work in the Federal Government" placed it last of all big agencies. Then there are bureaucratic issues: When an official asked colleagues at a meeting who thought they headed counterterrorism efforts, "five people raised their hands," the Post notes. Click for the full piece. (More Department of Homeland Security stories.)

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