Unable to maintain Officers within Homeland Security and understaffed

Posted on: 9th May 2023


Topic: Unable to maintain Officers within Homeland Security and understaffed.

For your final research paper in this course, you will write an analytical research paper addressing a major issue of your choosing from among the topics covered in this course. As a research paper, your paper will have to answer a significant puzzle related to a course topic. In this preliminary assignment, you are expected to identify a paper topic, to outline research question your paper is going to address, and to offer a justification for this paper based on preliminary research.

For this progress assignment, you are essentially doing the first two elements of your research paper from the outline provide in the Research Paper Outline Attachment.  The length of this document should range from eight(8) to twelve (12) pages in length.

Select a topic (Understaffed and unable to maintain officers within Homeland Security). The tendency will be to select too broad a topic. The length of the paper should be kept in mind in order that you will select a topic that can be explored adequately within the paper limit. For this assignment you are expected to complete the following.

Title Page of the Paper. The title of your paper should be brief but should adequately inform the reader of your general topic and the specific focus of your research. Keywords relating to parameters, population, and other specifics are useful. The Title Page must include the title, name, course name and number, and Professor’s Name. 

I. Introduction, Research Question, and Hypothesis:  This section shall provide an overview of the topic that you are writing about, a concise synopsis of the issues, and why the topic presents a “puzzle” that prompts your research questions, which you will include. This section will be 1-2 pages. This section can be preceded by an epigraph that creates interest in the topic. Ensure that you follow proper format for epigraphs!!  

II. Review of the LiteratureAll research projects include a literature review to set out for the reader what knowledge exists on the subject under study and helps the researcher develop the research strategy to use in the study. A good literature review is a thoughtful study of what has been written, a summary of the arguments that exist (whether you agree with them or not), arranged thematically. At the end of the summary, there should still be gaps in the literature that you intend to fill with your research. It is written in narrative format and can be from 5-7 pages depending on the scope and length of the paper. 

As a literature review, this section should identify the common themes and theories that the prior research identified. In this section what you do is look at the conclusions of prior research and identify what the common themes are you see in those conclusions. You then identify those themes. 

III. Methodology and Research Strategy: This section provides the reader with a description of how you carried out your qualitative research project, and the variables you identified and analyzed.  It describes any special considerations and defines any limitations and terms specific to this project, if necessary. This section can be brief or more complicated, depending on the project, written in 1-2 pages. 

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Unable to maintain Officers within Homeland Security and understaffed

I. Introduction

In the US, the “Department of Homeland Security (DHS)” is in charge of the country's security. The agency has many different divisions, including “Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)”. These divisions are responsible for enforcing immigration laws, securing the nation’s borders, , and making sure the safety of travellers and airport security. The agency is also responsible for many other things that aid in keeping the United States secure from threats both foreign and domestic alike. Recently, however, the agency has been coming under fire due to a lack of funding and staff. As of August 2015, more than two thousand employees have left the DHS when they are desperately needed. An agency of this size and magnitude facing a steep shortage in staffing is dangerous for national security and results in an increasingly stressful and understaffed workforce. A human resources report conducted in 2013 showed that 45% of permanent employees across all DHS divisions reported stress and fatigue.

In 2015, more than three thousand permanent employees left the DHS. This is an alarming number because it is when the DHS is desperately in need of officers. There are many different reasons as to why this may be the case. A lack of funding is certainly one factor, but it is not the only one. The DHS has also struggled with low morale and an increasingly stressful work environment. This is due to long hours, long commutes, and constant pressure. Many employees require a better work-life balance that they cannot get while working for the DHS.

It is the permanent employees who are leaving/stressed out and their contracted counterparts. Contractors have been increasingly relied on during times when funding is scarce. Despite the fact that they were employed to execute a certain job, they are frequently requested to take on extra responsibilities that are not part of their job description. This can be extremely frustrating and overwhelming, which is why many of them have also decided to leave the DHS. The decision to leave the DHS is often difficult, but many employees claim that it’s easier than trying to make changes within an organization like this.

The Problem

DHS has been struggling to maintain its workforce for several reasons. First, the agency has been experiencing a high turnover rate. Officers are leaving DHS at an alarming rate, and the agency has been unable to replace them quickly enough. Second, DHS has been facing budget cuts, which have led to a decrease in staff. And finally, the DHS has been struggling with low morale and an increasingly stressful work environment.

Research Questions

1.      What has led to the high turnover rate inside the DHS?

2.      Do low morale and an increasingly stressful work environment play a role in turnover within the DHS?

3.      How much money is lost due to low staff levels at DHS?


The high turnover rate among DHS officers is due to a lack of funding, long hours, and an increasingly stressful work environment. The effects of budget cuts on the DHS workforce are twofold. First, it leads to a decrease in staff, which leads to increased workloads for those who remain. Second, it creates a hostile work environment among DHS employees. The stress level at the DHS has increased over time because of the status of the job itself and changes made in the association. For instance, officers are expected to enforce the nation’s immigration laws efficiently while maintaining high morale, which is difficult for any officer. Factors that influence employee satisfaction with DHS include benefits, opportunities for advancement, and work-life balance.

II. Review of the Literature

The DHS has been struggling to maintain a consistent number of officers for many years. The lack of staffing has led to various issues, such as the recent New Mexico ICE detention facility failing its annual inspection. Several articles have cited different reasons for the DHS’s lack of staffing. Some argue that it is due to the administration’s failure to hire more employees, while others argue that it is due to the high-stress nature of the job. The DHS has also been criticized for their use of force. The lack of officers has also caused issues such as the Capitol Police riot in 2019 (Margolin & Bruggeman, 2021). In that incident, a group of officers could not control the crowd, and multiple officers were injured. The DHS has also struggled to fill vacant positions for agents within their organization. A recent report by the Government Accountability Office (2021) found that the administration’s failure to hire more employees has led to several critical positions remaining unfilled. This lack of staffing is also causing problems for the immigration system. In response to these issues, the DHS has come under fire from both sides of the political spectrum. Democrats and Republicans have called for more funding to hire additional officers, while others continue to push for stricter immigration enforcement.

According to the Office of Inspector General (OIG), the DHS cannot maintain its officer workforce at levels required to meet its mission (OIG, 2014). In their report, the OIG reviewed data from 2014-2016 and found that the DHS could not fill vacant positions, which has resulted in critical positions remaining unfilled (OIG, 2014). The report also found that the DHS has struggled to maintain a consistent number of officers within its organization. In February of 2015, the ACLU released a report that stated the detention centre is grossly understaffed, and detainees have gone for days without a shower or can change out of dirty clothes (OIG, 2014). The report also cited issues with cleanliness and latrines. Many articles have cited problems within the DHS caused by the lack of staffing, including the New Mexico ICE Detention Center failing their annual inspection because of issues with understaffing, Capitol Police riot led to injuries for officers because of an inability to control the crowd, and critical positions remain unfilled due to staffing issues (Margolin & Bruggeman, 2021).

Another research report by the GAO (2021) stated that nearly all of the DHS’s components experienced difficulties identifying and hiring personnel with the required skills. The GAO concluded that the Department [DHS] faces challenges in recruiting qualified individuals for some occupations. In this report, the DHS was criticized for its failure to hire employees due to funding. The DHS responded to the report by stating that they have been working to fill vacant positions and are committed to hiring the best talent available (GAO, 2021). However, this has not been successful, as illustrated by the number of unfilled critical positions. For example, in 2018, the DHS had a vacancy rate of 7 per cent for their law enforcement officer positions.

Democrats and Republicans have been pushing for more funding to hire additional officers; however, this has not been successful due to the government shutdown in 2019. According to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the partial government shutdown has resulted in the furlough of more than 800,000 federal employees, including many DHS staff (Asch, Mattock, & Hosek, 2014). This has created some staffing issues for the DHS. The DHS has also been plagued with other problems, such as using force by its officers. In October of 2018, the DHS’s OIG released a report that found that the DHS’s Use of Force Policy is adequate. However, the report also found that Actions Needed to Help Ensure Compliance with Use-of-Force Policy. For example, the report stated that the DHS needed to better track use-of-force incidents.

The DHS being understaffed has been present for years but has not received much attention. According to a Washington Post article, hiring challenges continue to plague U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which has not met its hiring goals in any year since 2011 (Rein, 2015). This is an ongoing issue that has existed throughout the past few years. In a recent interview on Fox News, Shawn Moran, Vice President of the National Border Patrol Council, stated that the hiring process has been extremely slow because too many bureaucratic obstacles are involved in the hiring process (KQED News Staff, 2017). In an article from 2012, former Secretary Jeh Johnson responded to criticisms about the inability to fill vacant positions within the agency by stating that they were aggressively working to address this problem (Kaplan, 2014). The current administration has made hiring additional agents a priority within their immigration agenda.

The Trump administration’s decision to increase their efforts to protect the border has prompted lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum to call for more funding for the DHS. Many have called for the Trump administration to hire additional agents to combat issues with understaffing. According to Newsweek, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection sent a letter in April requesting $100 million in extra funds from the DHS to meet President Donald Trump’s hiring goals (Silva, 2019). This has prompted Republicans to call for additional funding to be given to DHS for them to meet the hiring goals.

The media has paid little notice to the DHS understaffing. However, it remains a critical issue. According to an article written by John Roth, the OIG at DHS, OIG has identified some critical issues facing DHS that are exacerbated by the department’s inability to fill key leadership positions and staff its workforce with adequately trained and qualified personnel (OIG, 2017). The paucity of employees at ICE detention centers, the lack of officers within the Capitol Police, and the fiasco to fill vacant posts within the DHS are just a few of the major challenges. The OIG also reported that the DHS could not protect against 73% of all cyber-attacks because of their understaffed cybersecurity workforce (Silva, 2019).

According to Castañeda (2021), the New Mexico ICE Detention Center failed an annual inspection by the DHS due to issues with understaffing, Capitol Police were involved in a riot which ended up resulting in injuries for several officers, and the DHS was unable to fill some key positions within the agency. The DHS has been understaffed for years, and it does not seem to have a clear solution in sight (Castañeda, 2021). It is unclear whether or not the DHS will address this issue within the near future, but hopefully, they can identify their needs and find a way to fill those positions with qualified individuals.

In research carried out by The Partnership for Public Service, the DHS was ranked as one of the worst Government agencies to work in (Bailey, 2021). It is ranked third to last and has 482/1000 points. According to the website, this score represents the ability of an agency’s leadership team to execute its vision and effectively manage operations (Bailey, 2021). The main reasons provided for the dismal score were a lack of ongoing succession planning and mentoring and a skills gap due to low morale and poor recruitment. The survey suggested that if these problems are not resolved within one year, the DHS could continue having major issues down the road (Bailey, 2021). The current issue within the DHS with understaffing seems to reflect the low morale and poor recruitment that was identified in the Partnership for Public Service survey.

The DHS is unable to fill vacant positions within the agency due to some reasons, including but not limited to the low morale within the agency, the lack of qualified applicants, and the lengthy hiring process (Congress.Gov, 2020). The Trump administration has made it clear that they are willing to fill these positions; however, they have not taken any steps. According to the Partnership for Public Service survey, morale within the DHS is abysmal due to low pay, long hours, lack of support from supervisors and poor communication (Bailey, 2021). There are relatively few applicants who are qualified and interested in working for the DHS. This is largely because there are many other law enforcement agencies that applicants can go to instead of going through the lengthy process of applying with the DHS.

As immigration has been such a large part of President Trump’s campaign platform, many Democrats and even some Republicans have expressed concern over the politicization of the DHS (American Immigration Council, 2021). According to American Immigration Council, there is a fear that many of the qualified candidates who are not affiliated with Trump will be unwilling to apply to work for the DHS, knowing that their job security is at risk. The hiring process within the DHS is also lengthy, and it can take up to six months for a candidate to be offered a position (American Immigration Council, 2021). These factors will play a large role in deterring qualified candidates from entering the DHS, resulting in top-level positions remaining unfilled. Trying to hire new individuals for the DHS is also very costly. The Office of Personnel Management reported that it costs about $40,000 (about $38k in salary and benefits) to hire a single new federal employee (Grundmann et al., 2016). This cost is staggering when you consider that the DHS has over 240,000 employees and many high-level positions remain unfilled. Generally speaking, most experts agree that most of these issues can be attributed to the transition period within the DHS. The Trump administration had very little time to prepare and bring in new personnel when they took office in January of 2017 (Tenpas, 2021). There is hope that once the administration becomes more settled, they will be better equipped to address these issues. However, there are no guarantees that this will happen. These issues will likely continue to persist until the DHS has a large enough applicant pool to draw from, which may take many years.

A survey conducted by the Partnership for Public Service (National Mentoring Partnership, 2005) identifies a lack of ongoing succession planning and mentoring and a skills gap due to low morale and poor recruitment. The Trump administration is willing to fill vacancies within the agency; however, there have been no steps taken to do so, which has resulted in low morale within the agency. The long hiring process and a lack of qualified applicants are deterrents to individuals seeking employment with the DHS. The politicization of the agency is also an issue as many qualified candidates who are not affiliated with Trump are unwilling to apply to work for the DHS due to job security concerns (Bowman, 2010). The high cost of hiring a new employee is also a challenge for the DHS. Issues within the DHS are generally attributed to the transition period the Trump administration had when taking office.

III. Methodology and Research Strategy

Qualitative research is a type of research that relies on subjective data, such as personal interviews or focus groups. It is often used to explore social phenomena and can gain an in-depth understanding of a topic. I conducted interviews with five individuals who have worked within the DHS for at least 5 years in this study. I asked them questions regarding their opinions on the lack of applicants, morale within the agency, and the hiring process. I also asked them what they would do to fix these issues if given the opportunity.

I included five different participants who were affiliated with either Homeland Security Investigations or Customs and Border Protection for this study. These agencies fall under DHS jurisdiction. I chose participants who had worked for the DHS for at least five years, which allowed me to explore the agency’s issues more in-depth. I conducted semi-structured interviews with each participant, asking them about their opinions on issues including recruitment, morale, and the hiring process. This type of interview is beneficial because it allows participants to bring up important topics, and more in-depth dialogue.

The data for this research is being collected through semi-structured interviews. The participants have been chosen because they have extensive experience with the agency necessary to discuss these issues in depth. This methodology will provide detailed information on opinions regarding recruitment, morale, and hiring processes within the DHS. I analyzed the data collected from the interviews using thematic analysis. This type of analysis allows for identifying themes that emerge from the data. It will help provide a more in-depth understanding of the issues within the DHS.

While this study has several strengths, it also has a few limitations. First, the sample size is small, which means that the results may not be generalizable to the entire population of DHS employees. Additionally, the data is based solely on the participants’ opinions and does not consider other factors such as the agency’s budget or political landscape. Despite these limitations, the study provides an in-depth look at the opinions of DHS employees on key issues that may impact the agency’s ability to function properly.



American Immigration Council. (2021, January 20). The Cost of Immigration Enforcement and Border Security. Retrieved from American Immigration Council: https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/the-cost-of-immigration-enforcement-and-border-security

Asch, B. J., Mattock, M. G., & Hosek, J. (2014). The federal civil service workforce: Assessing the effects on retention of pay freezes, unpaid furloughs, and other federal-employee compensation changes in the department of defense. Rand National Defense Research Inst Santa Monica CA.

Bailey, A. (2021, September 2). The Department of Homeland Security’s Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® scores: The story behind the numbers. Retrieved from Partnership for Public Service: https://ourpublicservice.org/blog/department-of-homeland-security-employee-engagement/

Bowman, J. S. (2010). The success of failure: the paradox of performance pay. Review of Public Personnel Administration30(1), 70-88.

Castañeda, L. (2021, September 28). Understaffed, Unsanitary ICE Facility in New Mexico Fails Annual Inspection. Retrieved from ACLU: https://www.aclu.org/news/immigrants-rights/understaffed-unsanitary-ice-facility-in-new-mexico-fails-annual-inspection/

Congress.Gov. (2020, 01 14). 116th Congress (2019-2020): SEVENTEEN YEARS LATER: WHY IS MORALE AT DHS STILL LOW? . Retrieved from Congress.Gov: https://www.congress.gov/event/116th-congress/house-event/LC65252/text?s=1&r=5

Government Accountability Office. (2021, January ). Immigration Detention: Actions Needed to Improve Planning, Documentation, and Oversight of Detention Facility Contracts. Government Accountability Office, 1-63.

Grundmann, S. T., Wagner, A. M., Robbins, M. A., Read, J. M., Tsugawa, J. J., Wiley, A., . . . Roth, S. (2016). The Impact of Recruitment Strategy on Fair and Open Competition for Federal Jobs. U.S. MERIT SYSTEMS PROTECTION BOARD, 1-60. Retrieved from U.S. MERIT SYSTEMS PROTECTION BOARD.

KAPLAN, R. (2014, SEPTEMBER 22). Homeland Security has a serious employee retention problem. Retrieved from CBS News: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/homeland-security-has-a-serious-employee-retention-problem/

KQED News Staff. (2017, February 27). Interview with Border Patrol Agent Shawn Moran. Retrieved from KQED: https://www.kqed.org/news/11336367/interview-with-shawn-moran-vice-president-of-the-national-border-patrol-council

Margolin, J., & Bruggeman, L. (2021, January 10). Months ahead of Capitol riot, DHS threat assessment group was gutted: Officials. Retrieved December 23, 2021, from ABC News: https://abcnews.go.com/US/months-ahead-capitol-riot-dhs-threat-assessment-group/story?id=75155673

National Mentoring Partnership. (2005). How to Build A Successful Mentoring Program Using the Elements of Effective Practice. Mentoring, 1-203. Retrieved from Mentoring: https://www.mentoring.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Full_Toolkit.pdf

Office of Inspector General. (2014). U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Workload Staffing Model. Office of Inspector General, 1-29.

OIG. (2017). Special Report: Challenges Facing DHS in Its Attempt to Hire 15,000 Border Patrol Agents and Immigration Officers. Office of the Inpector General, 1-22.

Rein, L. (2015, October 14). Customs and Border Protection officials manipulated hiring rules to favor politically connected candidates, judge finds, but clears top official of wrongdoing. Retrieved from The Washington Post: Customs and Border Protection officials manipulated hiring rules to favor politically connected candidates, judge finds, but clears top official of wrongdoing

Silva, C. D. (2019, January 28). DHS Struggling to Hire Border Agents, Immigration Officers, Despite Trump’s Promise of 15,000 Jobs. Retrieved from Newsweek: https://www.newsweek.com/dhs-struggling-hire-border-agents-immigration-officers-despite-trumps-promise-1307227

Tenpas, K. D. (2021, January). Tracking turnover in the Trump administration. Retrieved from Brookings: https://www.brookings.edu/research/tracking-turnover-in-the-trump-administration/

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