Report: DHS needs ‘blended culture,’ new leadership models

Report of the Culture Task Force

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The Homeland Security Department has not yet established an overall culture for the organization, which may be adversely affecting morale, according to a report commissioned by DHS.

The agency needs to develop a “blended culture” based on “common values, goals and focus of mission” throughout DHS’ headquarters and component agencies, according to the report released by the Culture Task Force of the Homeland Security Advisory Council.

DHS officials, for example, need a common management model by which they establish expectations and performance metrics. "Success of nearly every large, diverse and geographically dispersed organization requires alignment around a common language, common management process and common leadership expectations," the report states.

The council also recommends that DHS appoint a deputy secretary for operations. This person, who would report to DHS’ secretary, would take the lead on integrating the operations of the various agencies and aligning them with the department's goals. The task force believes this individual should be a career federal employee, not a political appointee “to provide continuity and freedom from political influence."

The report is intended to help DHS officials refocus the department as a mission-oriented organization, even as it continues the task of consolidating its component agencies. However, the council said it believes that the process is so monumental that it could take years before the agency could define its culture.

“The magnitude of the 'change management' required is so vast that...it will require a continuum of progress over a period of many years before optimum cultural affinity can be achieved,” the report states.

The council's conclusions arrive on the heels of the Office of Personnel Management's 2006 Federal Human Capital Survey, which found DHS ranking almost last in terms of employee satisfaction and faith in management. The council found that the senior leadership at the agency attempted to address deficiencies, but the results of the efforts have not come to light yet.

DHS Chief Operating Officer Michael Jackson sent a memo to agency workers promising to increase communication and recognition between managers and employees at the agency.

Union representatives criticized the report, saying the task force failed to ask for input from DHS employees.

“There is no one more familiar with the difficulties DHS is experiencing in building a single culture within the department than its own employees,” said National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley.

She criticized some of the recommendations of the task force, such as avoiding the phrase human capital in favor of the word employees, and called for DHS to focus on the workplace instead.

“Until DHS management starts addressing real-world workplace problems, it will be impossible to create the blended culture it is seeking,” Kelley said.

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