The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is an organization, concerned with problems that are connected to keeping the country safe. According to the mission statement, the primary objective of the institution is to “ensure a homeland that is safe, secure, and resilient against terrorism and other hazards.” (Our Mission, 2016, para 1). For such an influential organization, good cooperation within it is a key to successful operations. The result can be achieved through proper leadership. However, the DHS has some problems within the organization that limit its capabilities. For long periods of time, the top positions at the agency were vacant or occupied by temporary workers. In addition, DHS is responsible for handling issues that differ in nature, which makes it difficult to manage the cooperation within it. The motivation of the employees is affected negatively by the problems that the department faces. Finally, most top positions are occupied by employees that fulfill the function of managers and supervisors and not leaders. The Department of Homeland Security has been struggling to achieve its mission efficiently due to a lack of leadership and leadership challenges that it faces.
Background information about the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
The organization was formed as a response to the September 11 attacks (Naylor, 2013). Thus, the primary motive behind creating the department was to have an institution that can serve to protect America from various threats. Among the responsibilities of the DHS there are many, while the department states that they strive “to prevent, to protect, to respond, and to recover, as well as to build in security, to ensure resilience, and to facilitate customs and exchange” (Our Mission, 2016, para. 3). This includes areas from border control to handling natural disasters. While the mission and work of the DHS are vital for the country, there are several aspects that need to be improved for DHS to function correctly. Recently, the DHS has been criticized for its performance by many (Miller, 2016).
DHS is Struggling to Recruit and Retain Employees
The institution seems to be struggling with recruiting and retaining the workforce. In 2013, after four years of working in DHS, Janet Napolitano had stepped down from the top position at the organization (Naylor, 2013). At the same time, the DHS had 15 opened positions in various departments. As Naylor (2013) stated, having no permanent leaders with the amount of responsibility the DHS has cannot be easy. Temporary workers filled many other job positions; some have been functioning in such manner for years. It can be argued that without a solid top management team the organization cannot operate. People that are in the place of a leader for a limited time will not have the same motivation and vision as those who are hired for long periods of time. Therefore, the inability of DHS to find people and ensure that they remain in their position is causing issues within the institution. “Department leadership must commit itself to ensure DHS operates more as a single entity rather than a collection of components.” (Homeland Security, 2017). This is impossible to do with people who know they can be replaced in a limited amount of time.
DHS Responsibilities Include a Broad Spectrum of Issues
The organization is responsible for many security issues, which make it difficult to manage it properly. Although the primary objective of DHS is the security of the country, when examining the mission closely it becomes evident that the institution is responsible for unrelated problems. Managing any organization is difficult on its own, let alone leading an organization with a broad spectrum of responsibilities. When the Congress first created it, 22 agencies (e.g., Coast Guard and Secret Service) were merged into one (Naylor, 2013). In addition to the differences in responsibilities and work objectives between those federal agencies, the bureaucracy that has emerged from the DHS’s formation has been a problem as well. Naylor (2013) described the agency as “bureaucracy charged” because of how the organization currently operates (para 3). The vast amount of issues that DHS is concerned with makes it difficult for a leader to manage the institution efficiently.
DHS Leadership Issues Affect Employee’s Motivation
Lack of leadership is causing issues in the workforce, which impacts the efficiency of DHS. According to the Committee on the Department of Homeland Security Workforce Resilience (2013), the institution is one of the most significant federal agencies in the country. However, the surveys display the lowest levels of morale among all organizations. The issue can be connected to the bad leadership that DHS is struggling with. Weak leaders are a contributing factor to the workplace stressors (among workload, role conflict, schedules and others) (Committee on the Department of Homeland Security Workforce Resilience, 2013). In addition, if people do not perceive a company or an organization as a good one to work for, their motivation will likely be lowered. According to surveys by the Partnership for Public Service, Homeland Security ranks at the bottom of its list of the best places to work (Naylor, 2013). This issue can be connected to poor leadership as well. In general, federal agencies’ leaders are not perceived as well performing. However, in case of DHS, the evaluation done by the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) showed that since 2003 scores for leadership have dropped significantly since 2003 (Committee on the Department of Homeland Security Workforce Resilience, 2013). The perception of the leaders by the employees is essential, and in the case of DHS, it is not good.
DHS Managers and Supervisors
The DHS employs people that can be described as managers or supervisors, not leaders. Committee on the Department of Homeland Security Workforce Resilience (2013) stated that surveys that were performed in the agency to evaluate the quality of leadership showed that the “quality of leaders varies widely” (para. 30). Furthermore, in any organization, it is essential to distinguish between leaders and managers. The latter cannot motivate the employees or encourage them to work more effectively. The DHS’ survey revealed that “in various sites, many supervisors are managers as opposed to leaders” (Committee on the Department of Homeland Security Workforce Resilience, 2013, para. 30). In addition, the employees were concerned that the management did not recognize their strengths nor did they value them. The issue with leadership is evident in this case and can affect the work results. The office of inspector general of DHS has issued a statement, to address the problem. “Department leadership must establish and enforce a strong internal control environment typical of a more mature organization.” (Homeland Security, 2017, p. 4). This should be done through recruiting proper leaders that can benefit the organization. In such case, the internal control will be in place, and the investment that the agency receives for its programs and operations will be both efficient and effective (Homeland Security, 2017).
It can be argued that although there are many issues within the DHS, the organization has well-developed mission and vision statements. This should serve as a guide for employees that are the ones protecting the country every day. Leaders are mainly concerned with organizational issues; they do not perform the actual tasks that are part of the mission of the DHS. Therefore, the employees should not be affected by the constant replacements of managers and other issues. However, as was mentioned before, DHS ranks at the very bottom of the list of employees satisfaction. As Committee on the Department of Homeland Security Workforce Resilience (2013) stated, “effective leadership, strong communication, and a common core culture … are the building blocks of a successful organization and are necessary if programs in the organization are to be implemented successfully” (para. 15). Therefore, without resolving these problems, the DHS will not be able to function correctly.
Overall, the DHS is facing many issues that affect the efficiency of the agencies’ work. Most of the problems are connected to the leadership and how the organization is managed. It can be argued that the employees should perform their tasks regardless of who is in charge of the DHS. However, the surveys point out that the institution ranks in the bottom of the places to work at. The issues that the DHS has to solve are the lack of people that occupy top management positions permanently, as those who are in a position temporary cannot create a compelling vision for the employees. Secondly, the organization has to structure its responsibilities more effectively, as it is in charge of many security aspects. Thirdly, the employee satisfaction at DHS is low, mainly due to improper leadership. The employees do not feel as they are valued which affects their motivation. Finally, the existing leaders perform managerial roles instead of encouraging the DHS to work for a common goal.
Committee on the Department of Homeland Security Workforce Resilience. (2013). A ready and resilient workforce for the department of homeland security: protecting America’s front line. Washington, DC: Author
Homeland Security. (2017). Major Management and Performance Challenges Facing the Department of Homeland Security. Web.
Miller, J. (2016). Rescuing tomorrow today: fixing training and development for DHS leaders. Web.
Naylor, T. (2013). Lack of leaders puts strain on homeland security department. National Public Radio. Web.
Our Mission. (2016). Web.