Issues Area

»Home   »Issues Area   print page email page

With the Department of Homeland Security Half Full, is Our Nation's Security Half Empty?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Today, Congressman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, revealed a number of critical leadership vacancies that remain at the Department of Homeland Security, and cautioned that these positions must be permanently filled by qualified people. Rep. Thompson joined his colleagues in raising these issues today at the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Management, Integration, and Oversight hearing entitled “Retention, Security Clearances, Morale, and Other Human Capital Challenges Facing the Department of Homeland Security.” Rep. Thompson issued the following statement:

"I can understand why the employee morale at the Department of Homeland Security is at an all time low. Since its inception, the Department has been understaffed with a number of employees being assigned to more than one job and with inexperienced people commanding critical elements they aren’t qualified for.

“The men and women of DHS charged with protecting our nation from terrorism and other disasters deserve better treatment from better leaders. In order to boost the morale they must be treated fairly and with respect.

“How people feel about their jobs impacts how they perform, and we all know that no organization can succeed if its employee morale is low and attrition is high. It is disturbing that one of the Department's vital components, TSA, has an attrition rate among fulltime screeners of 23 percent and 50 percent for part-time screeners. This constant turnover is disruptive to the aviation security system and to the flow of traffic at our nation's airports.

“Hurricane Katrina taught us that the Department's human resources problems go way beyond low morale and high attrition among the 185,000 people that it employs. We all learned that without capable qualified leaders and well-trained staff, the Department cannot perform and fulfill its critical mission.

“We had an unqualified FEMA Director who couldn't perform. We had an understaffed procurement office who delegated much of its responsibilities to the Army Corps of Engineers. And we had a significant number of vacancies throughout FEMA's operational structure that prevented the agency from responding as it should have. Sadly, not much has changed today.

“Nine months after the worst natural disaster that this nation has ever seen and 13 days before the start of the 2006 hurricane season, the Department still does not have a permanent confirmed leader at FEMA, and a number of other critical leadership positions remain vacant or are being filled by temporary appointments.

“The Department needs a real plan to fill these key positions. Attracting and retaining qualified and committed people is not just a FEMA problem or a TSA problem or even a CBP problem, it's a Department of Homeland Security problem. And, if the Department does not get its act together, it may become a problem for us all sooner than later,” said Rep. Thompson.

For More Information:
Please contact Dena Graziano or Todd Levett at (202) 226-2616

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS)

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson

Sign up to receive the latest news from the Democrats of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee.