- The Washington Times - Monday, January 1, 2018

NASA may not be going to the moon anymore, but its employees still think their agency is out of this world.

For the sixth straight year, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was the top large agency in the government’s annual survey of federal workers.

The Department of Homeland Security, meanwhile, continued its run at the bottom, ranked yet again as the worst large agency — though even it saw a huge improvement, leaping 6 points in President Trump’s first year in office as the new administration empowered officers and agents to do their jobs.

“We believe this dramatic improvement is the result of efforts by the Trump administration to fully support the DHS workforce across the board,” said a department spokesperson.

The findings come from the Office of Personnel Management’s annual survey of employees, sent to more than 1 million federal workers. Nearly 500,000 of them responded, answering questions about job satisfaction, how they evaluate their leaders and what sorts of work-life balance their agency encourages.

Overall, federal employees’ satisfaction grew during Mr. Trump’s first year, with just one of 84 questions showing a drop from 2016. That one outlier was on ability to recruit good new talent, which dropped from 43 percent positive to 42 percent positive.

All other questions, ranging from quality of supervisors to pay and recognition either stayed the same or improved in 2017.

Departments and agencies pride themselves on their own individual scores, and NASA continues to collect laurels among large agencies. “When you see highlights of NASA’s achievements over the year listed in one place, it’s pretty amazing what we’ve been able to achieve,” said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot in a statement.

Also in the top five out of the 18 large agencies were the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Transportation, both of which saw their rating improve by about 4 points. The Department of Commerce and Intelligence are the other two agencies in the top five.

The Army also saw a big jump in improvement — going up by over 4 points from last year’s ranking — and employees seem to be happier with the leadership and fairness displayed within the department.

The military saw rock-bottom morale in 2014 and 2015 with troops reportedly feeling underpaid and unsupported. A Military Times poll in 2014 found former President Barack Obama’s popularity at 15 percent among soldiers. Notably, troops only received a 1 percent pay increase that year.

Mr. Trump currently has a 44 percent approval rating within the military, according to a Military Times survey from October, compared to 40 percent who view him unfavorably.

Agencies that saw a drop tended to see the biggest problem in the subcategories relating to leadership effectiveness.

At the State Department, effective leadership among senior staff dropped over 9 points since last year’s ratings. The Department of Justice also saw a small drop in this area by a far lower margin, but across most of the subcategories relating to leadership.

Both agencies saw major shake-ups with the transition to the new administration, with Mr. Trump demanding resignations of the entire corps of U.S. attorneys, and a series of top State Department officials quitting.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson also has stumbled repeatedly, seemingly breaking with Mr. Trump on major policy debates. And the Justice Department has been a particular target for the president’s Twitter ire, where Mr. Trump has complained about investigations into his campaign, even as he demands investigations into Hillary Clinton and other Democratic figures.

The State and Justice departments declined to comment for this report.

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