Crenshaw Opening Statement at DHS Morale Hearing

WASHINGTON – Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), Oversight and Management Accountability Subcommittee ranking member, today delivered the following opening statement at a subcommittee hearing entitled, “Seventeen Years Later: Why is Morale at DHS Still Low?”

I am pleased that you called this hearing today. The morale of the Department of Homeland Security employees is of the utmost importance.

DHS has been besieged with issues of low morale, high level vacancies, and mismanagement since its inception.

Some of this struggle is understandable from an agency that was created by combining so many unique entities with their own mission sets. However, almost 17 years after its creation, we need to see some real progress in this area. The work the department does makes this too important to ignore.

DHS employs over 200,000 individuals dedicated to protecting the homeland and the American people. It is imperative to our security that those individuals are satisfied in their jobs, feel supported by Department leadership, and have support from the people of this country in their mission to secure the homeland.

The most recent survey of DHS employees shows that 56 percent of employees are satisfied in their jobs. While this is an improvement over recent years, DHS is still ranked last among large agencies. The survey shows that while 87 percent of the employees feel that they do important work, 63 percent felt that there was no consequence for employees that underperform and only 36 percent felt motivated by their leadership. Unfortunately, these employee viewpoints are not new; similar numbers were reported at a hearing this Committee held on morale during the Obama administration.

The responses to these questions show fundamental issues with the leadership of DHS and its components. While the employees value their work, they do not feel valued in their workplace. This is a problem that starts at the top. DHS leadership must hire and promote leaders who can motivate their staff and they must find ways to reward good performance and address underperformance.

I was pleased to find out that DHS has established an Employee and Family Readiness Council to address challenges DHS employees face.  This is a step in the right direction. However, I believe more needs to be done to determine the root causes of the employee dissatisfaction.

While I believe that some of the dissatisfaction has its roots in the organization of the Department, I also believe that the physical attacks on the offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the verbal attacks on ICE and Customs and Border Protection, as well as the Department as a whole by Members of Congress and the media undermine employee morale. 

Every day, DHS employees strive to carry out critical missions to protect the people of this country. From CBP agents on the border, ICE HSI conducting counter proliferation operations, and CISA ensuring physical and cyber security – they keep us safe. They should not be blamed for the failings of an immigration system that we as a Congress have not acted to fix.

Good morale at an agency can help drive progress and ensure mission success; bad morale can lead to a discontented workforce and a lack of commitment to an agency’s mission. 

With an agency like DHS, the stakes are too high to allow this to happen.

DHS needs to develop a clear vision for addressing the root causes, as well as metrics to measure its success. It also needs to develop ways to motivate staff and reward performance.  I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on the causes of the low morale at DHS, as well as the steps DHS should take to address it.

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