obama_shrug_smirk

For years, high morale has proven elusive for employees of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The newest cabinet-level department consistently ranks at or near the bottom in surveys of federal employee morale.

In fact, DHS has ranked dead last among all large federal agencies in the “employee engagement” score on the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey every year since 2013. What’s more, the department’s employee engagement score fell each year from 2009 to 2015, tumbling from 61 percent to 53 percent.

Jeh Johnson, who served as DHS Secretary from December 2013 through the end of Barack Obama’s term, tried to boost morale with an employee steering committee dedicated to fairness in hiring and promotions, enhanced employee training programs and launched a department-wide “Unity of Effort” initiative.

However, morale continued to sink in 2015, the year after Johnson took those steps. The department’s employee engagement score did rebound to 56 percent in 2016, but it was still tied for last among large agencies.

When Donald Trump assumed the presidency, Gen. John Kelly, his first DHS secretary, vowed to improve the agency’s morale. During an April 18 speech at George Washington University, Kelly lashed out at lawmakers, blaming his agency’s low morale on “pointless bureaucracy” and “disrespect from public officials who have no idea what it means to serve.”

Two months later, on June 20, the House approved the 2017 DHS Morale, Recognition, Learning and Engagement (MORALE) Act, authored by Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. The MORALE Act sought to lift spirits within DHS by creating an engagement steering committee and an annual non-monetary award program to recognize excellent employees.

But the reason for the department’s persistently low morale is quite simple, according to retired DHS officer Philip Haney.

In an interview with WND, Haney pointed to his former department’s original mission, which was articulated at DHS’s founding on March 1, 2003. On a certificate listing Haney as one of the founding members of DHS, the department is said to be “dedicated to preventing terrorist attacks within the United States, reducing America’s vulnerability to terrorism, and minimizing the damage from potential attacks and natural disasters.”

In the 14 years since its founding, DHS has drifted away from its original mission, according to Haney. The Obama years were especially bad, he said.

“The reason for the low morale was because the directives from the former administration and its policies basically handcuffed us and prohibited us from doing our job,” Haney told WND. “You know, the catch-and-release program with ICE; the emphasis on civil rights and civil liberties within Customs and Border Protection made it more and more difficult for us to actually do the law enforcement-style interviews and enforcement of immigration law that we did when the agency was first founded.

“And, of course, Border Patrol, with the waves of immigrants coming over the border, were basically ordered just to stand aside. So each one of our three branches of the core of DHS had their own restrictions on their primary job, their primary mandate, and that was the reason for the low morale.”

Haney tells the full story of how he and his fellow Customs and Border Protection officers were prevented from effectively protecting the country from terrorism in his memoir “See Something, Say Nothing: A Homeland Security Officer Exposes the Government’s Submission to Jihad.”

However, there is hope that DHS morale may improve markedly under the Trump administration.

On Feb. 20, only a month after Trump’s inauguration, then-DHS Sec. John Kelly issued two memoranda that began to reinstate the authorities ICE, CBP and Border Patrol had been given when DHS was created, but which prior administrations had stripped away. One of the memoranda called for “facilitating the efficient and faithful execution of the immigration laws of the United States” by “using all… statutory authorities to the greatest extent practicable” to remove aliens from the country.

Your government is not doing all it can to protect you – hear it straight from a DHS whistleblower. Get “See Something, Say Nothing: A Homeland Security Officer Exposes the Government’s Submission to Jihad” now at the WND Superstore!

The memo also called for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hire 10,000 new agents and officers to help with the renewed push to enforce America’s immigration laws.

However, Haney believes the most important paragraph in this six-page memo is Paragraph G, titled “Aligning the Department’s Privacy Policies With the Law.” It reads, in part:

“The Department will no longer afford Privacy Act rights and protections to persons who are neither U.S. citizens nor lawful permanent residents. The DHS Privacy Office will rescind the DHS Privacy Policy Guidance memorandum, dated January 7, 2009, which implemented the OHS ‘mixed systems’ policy of administratively treating all personal information contained in DHS record systems as being subject to the Privacy Act regardless of the subject’s immigration status.”

That paragraph could be the key to getting DHS back on track toward fulfilling its original mission, according to Haney.

“What is that, a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo?” he asked rhetorically. “No. What it did is it dismantled the approach of the Obama administration, that they were more concerned about civil rights and civil liberties and/or privacy rights of foreign nationals than they were of enforcing existing immigration law. That paragraph right there, Paragraph G, is a turning point, assuming of course that it is implemented as written in the directive, to begin to reinstate the authority of the three major agencies within the DHS: ICE, CBP and Border Patrol.”

Haney lamented that the mainstream media missed these memos amidst all their fussing about Trump’s “travel bans.”

“They are extremely important, and if they are implemented and followed up it will, over the long term, have a major beneficial influence on the ability of the guys who have taken the oath of office to actually do their job,” Haney asserted. “So that’s a hopeful sign, very much. If we can address the low morale by simply reinstituting the authorities that sworn law enforcement officers were granted by the Constitution and by immigration law, then that will go a long way in revitalizing our original mandate.”

Haney said although it’s too early to tell, Trump may become the most DHS-friendly president to date. He thinks Kelly’s memos are an encouraging sign. In addition, the department has grown in influence and power under Trump, having been emboldened to crack down on illegal immigration and prevent potential terrorists from entering the country. In his budget, Trump proposed increasing DHS funding by $2.8 billion.

Neither of Obama’s DHS secretaries, Janet Napolitano and Jeh Johnson, were law-enforcement-minded, in Haney’s view. Johnson, as Haney details in “See Something, Say Nothing,” didn’t even bother to look into Haney’s claims when he tried to blow the whistle on the department’s practices.

But if Trump’s DHS continues to emphasize the department’s original mandate to reduce America’s vulnerability to terrorism, Haney believes morale will rise and Trump will be remembered as a great homeland security president.

The early results look promising, as far as morale is concerned. DHS’s employee engagement score, according to the 2017 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, jumped from 56 percent in 2016 to 60 percent in 2017, reaching its highest level since 2011.

Haney said going forward, the important question is whether Kirstjen Nielsen, Trump’s pick to replace Kelly as DHS secretary, favors the Countering Violent Extremism policy or not. CVE was the Obama-era counterterror policy that focused less on law enforcement and more on protecting the civil rights and civil liberties of Muslims, all while downplaying radical Islamic terror as just one of many threats facing the nation.

CVE was the policy that shattered DHS’s approach to law enforcement, according to Haney.

“If you have CVE policy, it’s counterproductive at best and destructive at worst,” he said. “So that’s your indicator as far as whether Kirstjen Nielsen will be a good Secretary of Homeland Security. If she’s pro-CVE and civil rights and civil liberties and privacy rights enforcement, then it’s going to be to the detriment of law enforcement, i.e. enforcement of immigration law. If she favors immigration law, then the agency will grow back into the place it was meant to be in the first place.”

Your government is not doing all it can to protect you – hear it straight from a DHS whistleblower. Get “See Something, Say Nothing: A Homeland Security Officer Exposes the Government’s Submission to Jihad” now at the WND Superstore!

 

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.