This chapter includes materials from two closing panels from the September 2011 workshop and some comments from the sponsor. A multidisciplinary panel was tasked with summarizing the key points from the workshop. The summary panel included experts from different fields related to resilience: Brian Flynn, associate director of the Center for Studies of Traumatic Stress at Uniform Services University; Joseph Hurrell, editor of the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology; Kevin Livingston, deputy associate director for the Washington Operations for the Federal Law Enforcement Center; and Bryan Vila, professor at the Sleep and Performance Research Center at the University of Washington, Spokane.
The second panel included representatives from various Department of Homeland Security (DHS) component agencies. Representatives from the DHS components discussed resilience issues relevant to their specific component and resilience or resilience-supportive initiatives they are currently undertaking. The panelists were Sean Byrne, Transportation Safety Administration (TSA); Keith Hill, U.S. Secret Service (USSS); Mark Tedesco, U.S. Coast Guard (USCG); Shelia Clark, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); Linda Gray, Customs and Border Protection (CBP); and Laronna Bell, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
In each panel, speakers made individual remarks and then participated in a panel discussion. The panel discussions were moderated by the planning committee chair James Peake. Throughout the two panel discussions, speakers shared common concerns and issues (see Box 8-1).
Themes from Individual Speakers from the Panel Discussions
- Role of chronic fatigue and poor physical health on resilience
- Consequences of frequent deployment and relocation on stress and resilience
- Challenge of DHS workforce diversity for creating department-wide resilience programs
- Role of leadership in resilience interventions
- Role of evidence and performance measurement in developing and improving interventions
- Relationships among individual, family, organizational, and community resilience
- Effects of preventing occupational stressors on resilience efforts
Each panelist was asked to distill the key messages from the workshop proceeding from their perspective. The panel was designed to draw upon the experiences and expertise from different fields related to resilience as well as the target populations—operational and law enforcement personnel. The individual presentations by Flynn, Hurrell, and Livingston’s are summarized below. Vila’s presentation concentrated on the role of sleep and fatigue on resilience, which he felt was missing from the workshop discussions, and has been moved to Chapter 4, which focused on factors that influence resilience. All four of the summary panelists participated in a panelist discussion and addressed questions and comments from workshop participants.
The Community Health and Resilience Perspective
Brian Flynn focused his comments on those issues he considered key based upon the presentations and discussions. He suggested there were several keys points that arose from the workshop presentations and discussions:
- Resilience is a process.
- Resilience has been considered for a long time using different terminology.
- There is a need to focus on function.
- Stress management does not equal resilience promotion.
- Both stressors and rewards/positives must be emphasized.
- It is important to define “rewards.”
- Resilience involves individuals, families, organizations, and the community.
- There are several ways to look at interactions and trajectories.
- It is important to integrate health/safety and resilience.
- Resilience efforts should begin early through task design.
Moving Beyond Definitions
It is important to further tease out the similarities and differences between individual, resilience, and organizational resilience, commented Flynn. Resilience is applied to all these different areas and is often used interchangeably. He asserts that it is probably not necessary to concentrate further on defining resilience; it is now time to focus on how these things get evaluated and operationalized.
Based upon the presentations, many programs and potential models appear to be already out there for DHS to explore. Flynn commented that program designs that include postadversity growth in response to stress and critical incidents may be the most useful to DHS. The presentations made clear that resilience promotion begins before the incident or stressor. He quoted workshop presenter Col. Carl Castro, who stated, “Ideally they come to us resilient.”
Flynn suggested that, for programs to succeed, both individuals and organizations must be responsible for resilience promotion and stress reduction. This responsibility starts with the leadership. Flynn noted that although he is very impressed by the Department of Defense (DOD) programs, it is unclear, because of legal and administrative differences, how that model can be applied intact to DHS.
Flynn noted that the role of leadership is critical. There are various aspects to consider in leaders. Leadership can be seen as a means rather than an end. Leadership occurs at many levels and takes many forms. Key leadership characteristics include strength and honor. He also noted
that one of the key components of leadership is the ability to sustain efforts and resilience. He added that it is possible to train leaders.
Flynn commented that leadership buy-in is essential to the programs and their objectives. DHS has an overwhelming challenge, which is further complicated by the need to promote and sustain positive leadership in an organization where the top leadership changes every 4 years. Flynn offered several thoughts to promote buy-in:
- What are the strategies and the paths to access leadership?
- Building and maintaining credibility is important.
- Are there issues with the staff versus line personnel? Are there issues with employees versus contractors?
- DHS is not alone. Potential partners exist within other federal agencies and academic institutions.
Flynn felt it was important to point out to DHS that collaborating with other organizations could have many benefits. Partnerships potentially reduce costs and increase transparency. Flynn’s final thought about how to promote buy-in is the importance of reminding people of the consequences of not acting.
Flynn noted that both wellness programs and EAPs must make a business case for the positive effects of employee supportive programs. Although Flynn observed that wellness programs appear to be more broadly evaluated than EAPs, both have potentials solutions and strategies that can be applied to resilience programs.
Flynn cautioned that perception is everything. DHS must understand that the staff’s and management’s perceptions are as important as the services offered. Therefore, whether it is a resilience, wellness, or an EAP, it is necessary that the services are relevant to the employees and have strong quality-control mechanisms in place.
Evidence Base and Program Evaluation
Many methods are available to evaluate the evidence base to develop and evaluate the effectiveness of a program. Flynn noted that, at this point, almost any level is sufficient as long as the program designers are
clear and honest about the strengths and weakness of the evidence base underlying the program.
It is the nature of government to crave consistency in all things, including program design. However, there are negatives as well as positives inherent in consistency. Consistency is good if it ensures access to needed services and programs across the organization. It is not good if it does not respect and recognize differences in mission and culture. DHS should work not to be caught in defining consistency all positively or all negatively.
Funding programs is always an issue. Flynn noted that funding was a theme in DHS’s discussions about how to move the program forward. He believes that significant changes can be made with limited resources, particularly in terms of policy and communications changes. However, the reality is that there is no free lunch. DHS needs to assess whether it is making appropriate funding choices regarding stress reduction and resilience enhancement, and whether these decisions reflect stigma regarding behavioral health. Flynn suggest that DHS ask itself, “If DHS found that 25 percent of the uniform workers were developing some kind of transmissible rash and it was adversely impacting many of their family members, because of X, would they still say, ‘there is not enough money to address the problem or to delay an attempted solution?’” An approach such as this helped DHS assess whether it is approaching parity in addressing behavioral health concerns with the same seriousness as it would other medical or public health challenges.
Importance of Culture
Flynn noted that it is important to recognize the effect of culture at all levels with DHS. Throughout the workshop, there were discussions about how to change the culture to support resilience for issues such as stigma. Given the diversity of cultures, DHS should be careful in considering changes in the culture that may result in unintended consequences. In developing a general strategy and approach to culture change, DHS should look at the extent of these efforts and whether they should be department-wide or specific to the individual components. DHS should also look at the role of isolation and job fit.
Flynn suggested that perception is everything in behavioral health. What role does perception play in stress and resilience, both on the individual
level and among the components, in Congress, the administration, and in the public? How does DHS deal with perception as a factor in resilience? Flynn noted that the workshop did not include information on making stress management and resilience promotion a required job skill. He suggested that people are certified in many things, so there may be some opportunities to do the same here, for instance.
Flynn also pointed out that DHS must determine if and how it is going to make a business case for these programs. Flynn stated that in order to advance these programs, it will be essential to develop a business case for the effect of operational readiness and subsequently cost-effectiveness.
Flynn advised DHS that the success and survival of its resilience initiative may be more dependent on management of expectations than on the end accomplishments. The challenge becomes balancing hope and optimism with reality. The reality is that DHS is a huge, diverse, and young organization. As part of the federal government, DHS faces significant restrictions that limit some of the options that would be possible in the private sector. Additionally, the current environment is defined by declining resources, a poor general economy, and the public’s antigovernment sentiment.
Past Experience with the FEMA Stress Management Study
Flynn related his experience developing the FEMA Stress Management Study, a program for FEMA in response to Hurricane Hugo. The program was motivated by the need to evaluate some of the decisions made during Hugo. Stress was a factor in bad organizational decisions. The study was broad in its scope, and subsequent recommendations addressed policy and communication changes, as well as additional services for the staff. Many of these changes could be made with very little resources. However, because of funding limitations, the program was not evaluated.
The Occupational Health Psychology Perspective
Joseph Hurrell began his comments by emphasizing that how an issue is defined has enormous implications for how it is approached. Defining an issue can affect what interventions are developed and their
success. For example, if you view how someone experiences job stress as the result of individual vulnerability, then it is likely that you would focus on secondary interventions such as stress management to help them cope with the conditions of a job. Alternately, if job stress is seen as an organizational issue or related to the design of the job itself, then a primary intervention would focus on changing aspects of the job or the organization to alleviate the underlying conditions that create unnecessary stressors.
Hurrell quoted Talcott Parsons, who wrote, “A wonderful concept is stress, what it means is anyone’s guess. Though it is fun to be clinical and rude to be cynical, operationally, it’s a mess.” Hurrell notes that the same is true of resilience. How resilience is characterized is important because it determines how one thinks about it, and it may dictate the kind of intervention developed.
Primary and Secondary Prevention
Hurrell recalled his experience on a recent trip where there were delays in the security lines because of breakdowns in the screening equipment. The delays created a frustrated and hostile crowd for the TSA screeners to screen. In this situation, secondary interventions such as changing the culture, improving leadership, and training do not address these types of stressors. Primary prevention such as fixing equipment failures is a more appropriate response to the problem.
Hurrell suggested that the whole field of job stress and the term job stress is very value laden. The same may be true about resilience. For instance, TSA screeners might be offended if they are offered resilience training but would probably welcome improvements to the equipment. Primary prevention seeks to address the daily chronic issues people face in their jobs.
Hurrell did not suggest that primary prevention could be the entire solution, noting that one size does not fit all. However, he cautioned that as DHS moves to design secondary interventions, it should be judicious. After 35 years in government, Hurrell noted that regardless of how hard it is to change federal jobs and environments, it might be a lot easier than changing people or cultures.
Using Other Fields of Research
Some of the issues in the job stress literature are analogous to the issues within resilience. In the past, much of the research in job stress focused on identifying the bad conditions and eliminating them. Current theories of job stress are much more positively oriented and think more in terms of developing engagement among people. In particular, the job demands–resources model includes both negative and positive indicators and outcomes of employee well-being. The idea is that people face all kinds of demands, and providing resources to cope with those kinds of demands will mitigate the negative effects. These resources could include social support and giving workers more control over their work. Employees will be more engaged in their jobs as a result. This engagement among employees leads to lower levels of job stress and lower levels of burnout. Hurrell noted that this sounds very similar to the whole notion of resilience. Given the similarity in the concepts, it is possible that the types of approaches used to develop an engaged workforce would be quite similar to those developed to create a resilient workforce. Although this is a slightly different approach, it offers current and reasonable recommendations on how to positively change the work environment.
The Law Enforcement Perspective
Kevin Livingston started by saying that the workshop presentations have reinforced for him many of the things he had learned through his experiences in the military, Secret Service, and many years in federal law enforcement. Although the term resilience is new to him, much of what he has heard at the workshop boils down to what he thinks of as morale. In his view, morale is affected by a broad number of factors including physical health and wellness and leadership.
In particular, the presentations citing the effect of physical health on resilience ring true with his personal views on wellness. As for the discussions about leadership and resilience, he joked that as a supervisor for many years, he is used to being the person causing stress. It is his job to get more out of his workers and to push them to do better, be successful, and move up within the organization. In the Marine Corps, Livingston learned that it was important to understand the jobs of the next two ranks above yours. This was based on the idea that you never knew when you would have to move up. Livingston noted that before there were resilience and resilience-related programs, it was his role as a supervisor to
work on these issues. He suggested that it takes knowing your employees and understanding what is going on with them to be able to support them when they need it. As a supervisor, he felt there are three areas worth restating:
- the role of the supervisors in supporting their staff,
- the impact of fitness on overall well-being, and
- the difficulty in having clear communication.
Livingston stated that fitness is critical and includes mental and emotional health. He also mentioned the importance of job design. He suggested that a job is supposed to challenge an employee because otherwise work will be routine and boring. That is not healthy for the employee, and it kills productivity.
Livingston commented that the workshop was incredibly helpful for him and validated many of the things he believed before. The question he posed for the group was “What is next?” He added that while it is primarily the Office of Health Affairs’ challenge, it is also his and all the other DHS staff’s as well. He added that it is the nature of law enforcement to always want a solution. He suggested that DHS move forward, like the Army, and do a pilot program. Take a port, a TSA airport, a Secret Service office, or any area of opportunity, and apply the lessons from the workshop. DHS should try to replicate other programs’ successes. Figure out what works and keep going. The employees are DHS’s most valuable asset, and everyone should help to do their job better.
Summary Panel Discussion
Planning committee chair James Peake noted that it was not clear how well the problem is defined. This could be due to the diversity of organizations, personnel, and cultures. While there are differences, there are also a lot of commonalities between these groups, principally because of the shared core mission. There are effectively two types of resilience in this situation. Everybody faces stress on the job because these are high-stress jobs. How does DHS help employees build resilience to cope with the ongoing stressors from a normal day? The next level is when the situation goes beyond the normal day due to an event. How does DHS help employees bounce back from an unknown stressor?
Defining the Problem
Flynn noted that because resilience is multidimensional, a matrix might be a way to conceptualize the issues. It would need to include individual challenges, different events and stressors, and a third dimension with information about the types of people such as policy and line personnel. Given all of the complexities, there may need to be more than one strategy used to address the issues.
Hurrell pointed out that if there were a reduction in the chronic levels of stress that people experience every day, then people would be much better prepared to face the unknown situations. The evidence suggests that people with lower levels of day-to-day stress caused by the job are also much less likely to develop PTSD.
Vila noted that the military has specialized in adaptability. U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) has worked in this area for several years and recently updated its training. The training is focused on teaching individuals to navigate the rules and environment and adjust their behavior if either or both changes. Adaptability seems like one of the pieces of building resilience at the organizational level, which links back to management style and policies. He commented that there are aspects of law enforcement’s and first responders’ missions and jobs that are intrinsically difficult. For the most part, managers and employees deal with the day-to-day issues. When someone gets knocked down by an event, the ability to come back has to do with how healthy and centered that person is and how well he or she is supported by his or her family, community, or organization. At an organizational level, it is possible to promote both physical and mental wellness through health promotion, EAPs, and, most importantly, strong day-to-day management.
Livingston added that having a strong base is important, which includes a sound and healthy employee, as well as a supervisor that is in tune with his or her people. Once these two pieces are in place it is possible to train for change and adaptability.
Planning committee member Joseph Barbera pointed out that not all stress is bad. Some stress is like lifting weights. When managed correctly, stress can build character. Much of how stress is managed is based upon how it is interpreted.
Job Fit as Primary Prevention
Flynn noted that getting resilient people into the job is a part of primary prevention. While the workshop has included discussions about task design and job description, there has not been much discussion about matching temperament to the job. A possible part of the solution is a clear understanding of what type of person is needed for a particular job. That requires more attention to DHS’s recruitment and selection process.
Kathryn Brinsfield from DHS’s Office of Health Affairs added that the type of psychological screenings used in the private sector to match personality and jobs are not possible within the federal agencies. Flynn responded that there does not need to be a formal evaluation but rather an informal set of questions relevant to the position. From a clinical point of view, Flynn suggested asking about difficult situations that the person has encountered on the job and how he or she dealt with them would be a good place to see how adaptable a person can be and under what conditions.
Hurrell commented that screening presents some significant challenges, not only legally but also empirically. To his knowledge there is no solid empirical evidence supporting pre-hire screening. The tools and the science are not at a place where he feels comfortable supporting them.
Vila noted that within law enforcement there is a lot of screening. The police psychology section of the International Association of Chiefs of Police has about 500 members and has been focused for the past 10 years on research. There are almost 800,000 law enforcement personnel in the United States. All of them take an oral and written interview, about 90 percent of them get a preemployment psychological evaluation, and a large proportion have had a polygraph test. The oral interview is focused on challenging the applicant to see if he or she is mentally flexible and how he or she responds to stress.
Planning committee member Karen Sexton noted that there has been a shift to value-based interviewing within nursing that looks at the demands of being a nurse and the ability to advocate for patients. While this is not a perfect solution, there has been some success in that area.
The Military Model
Brinsfield noted many DHS components are paramilitary in the way they think. She asked the speakers if they think of the military programs
as a model, in particular the Global Assessment Tool (GAT). She added that she is concerned that pieces of the GAT might not be applicable or implementable within DHS.
Flynn responded that although the GAT model could apply to DHS, it would be very difficult for DHS to build the assessments and require people to do it. Outside of the DOD there are significant administrative and bureaucratic constraints. Instead of trying to implement the whole military model, DHS has to figure out what it needs out of it and develop those pieces.
Vila suggested finding an environment where bureaucratically and organizationally resilience is most likely to be embraced. Use the program as a pilot, and measure it carefully to develop the evidence supporting it. After it has a strong foundation, it will be easier to push out to other less tractable components. He noted that CBP and the Federal Air Marshal Service may be areas where this initiative could flourish.
Barbera advised DHS to include behavioral health and behavioral measurements as it goes forward. These measures tend to be objective and measurable. Barbera added that Livingston was the first person to bring up the word morale at the workshop. In some ways thinking about resilience in terms of morale is helpful because in some ways it is a more performance-based and observational concept. It also can be applied to the unit level and is part of the immediate supervisor’s responsibility.
Hurrell commented that DHS should consider objective, organizationally important indicators, as well as behavioral and economic indicators such as absenteeism or return on investment. Using less objective measures such as morale can be useful in pinpointing problems. If there is low morale, there is a problem. Flynn commented that one of the first comments from workshop speaker Fran Norris’ presentation was the need to focus on function. There is evidence about the impact of some of these factors on health and long-term performance, Vila noted, and the Buffalo study of law enforcement personnel provides data on a similar population.
Norris commented that many of the ways resilience is framed is seen as a problem with the individual worker. Although there has been some discussion about the organization, the interventions cycle back to address problems with the workers. Vila replied that looking at both the employee and the organization is necessary. Hurrell agreed but noted that in
most cases the worker is not at the table, and management makes most of the decisions. He noted that it is incredibly important to see how the employee views these situations, and the effect of any kind of program under development should be influenced by the views of employees.
Representatives from the leadership of DHS component agencies were invited to speak at the workshop about their agencies’ programs and needs, as well as to offer input on how DHS should move forward with the resilience initiative.
Peake introduced the session by noting the strong representation on the panel by the leadership as a clear indicator of the interest in this topic. Although DHS is a heterogeneous organization, there are a number of commonalities as well. Many of the challenges faced by the department are unique given the wide range of work and the fact that DHS components are spread throughout the country. Much of the work is tedious but essential and is interspersed with period of high stress, which requires quick responses. Peake noted that resilience is ultimately about being able to better accomplish the mission. He asked speakers to identify program gaps and focus on outcomes and how to improve them.
Transportation Security Agency
Sean Byrne, Assistant Administrator for Human Capital for the TSA, stated that the TSA believes that a more resilient workforce is a more effective workforce. There is a big difference between military and civilian workforces. Within the military, there are armywide resilience programs focused on making soldiers more resilient and ensuring families feel more comfortable. The military has the advantage of consistent training and a one-program-fits-all model. It is a different world outside the military. The TSA oversees 472 different airports, the Federal Air Marshalls are scattered all over the nation, and TSA staff are overseas coordinating with other governments. Consistency is not there.
The TSA also has an advantage of being a new organization. In other organizations, employees grow up professionally within the organization and the culture. The TSA came on board after 9/11 and was built from scratch. As a new organization, many issues develop, and consistency is
a challenge. The organization is currently going through many dramatic changes to ensure that every airport has at least the same standard operating procedures and equipment and that employees are treated consistently.
The TSA scans hundreds of thousands of passengers per year. In the past, it was one-size-fit-all where everyone had the same level of screening. That is changing as risk-based screening is implemented because it is built on a very different philosophy. For example, there will be different screening procedures for different groups based on risk such as children under 12, frequency of flying, credentialing, background investigations, or security clearances. These changes mean transportation security officers are going to perform very different roles going forward and will need very different skills than they had in the past. They will have to be more self-aware. There will be screeners talking with passengers and, based on what screeners see or pick up, they will have to make judgments about what levels of screening passengers should undergo. As a result, the TSA will need focused and more self-aware individuals in this role. Some of the DHS elements are Title V, but the TSA is not, which gives the TSA more flexibility in hiring. Sometimes that flexibility is restrictive, and the TSA will have to break out of it. The TSA has various different groups within the workforce, and it is trying to empower the employees and increase their engagement.
Bryne noted that there are several causes for stress within the agency including junior leadership development, recruiting and maintaining security officers, worker training, and transitioning to a new process. The TSA has a great workforce. The senior leaders all came into the organization at the middle or senior levels with leadership experience. They are primarily retired Secret Service and retired military. As a result, no one grew up in this organization, and there are sometimes issues with the junior leadership. In the past, people have been promoted based on technical expertise. The focus going forward is going to be on leadership development with junior leaders.
The TSA also has to work through a tough economy. Transportation security officers generally make about $40,000 per year, which makes it hard to recruit and keep good officers. That is a stressor. In the near future, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) will represent 75 percent of TSA employees. The TSA will collaborate with AFGE on health and safety factors. Leadership anticipates having a dialogue with AFGE regarding the pay-for-performance program that TSA intends to keep. It will not be involved with security requirements or standards, however.
The scope of work is large with a TSA presence in 472 airports. The agency does not have a brick-and-mortar schoolhouse for groups within its agency, except for the Federal Air Marshals. The TSA is considering going to a “one TSA” model similar to the military’s training. A potential issue as the agency goes to a true risk-based security is retraining the screeners. While most of them will be able to work within the model, the TSA is concerned that some will not. The TSA is going to have to figure out how to address those employees.
Byrne believes there are a number of reasons TSA scores on the bottom of the government surveys on the best places to work. However, many efforts are under way to improve that score. The TSA is working with management advisors from the National Advisory Council. They are assessing airports and making recommendations about engaging employees and ensuring that the TSA is identifying workforce stressors. TSA administrator John Pistole and all the senior leadership met with the National Advisory Council recently. The feedback from the employees was focused on the change to risk-based security procedures. Bryne was impressed by this and noted that the employees recognize that the TSA is transforming and want to be involved in the process. Part of the TSA’s solution to building a more resilient workforce is to build a more engaged workforce. The focus is to make the TSA a place where people want to come to work because of the mission, and to ensure that people know they have a future in the organization and a good career progression.
Keith Hill is an agent with the Secret Service and the assistant director overseeing human resources and training. He noted that the issue of resilience is a significant topic for the Secret Service. The Secret Service has been around for 146 years and doing protection work since 1901. For the 1811s—the gun-carrying uniformed division population—the protective piece is certainly a big stressor. The agency seeks to address this issue in training. Before recruits come on board, it is made clear what is expected of them as an agent or uniformed division officer. By starting at the beginning, the agency can begin the process of weeding out those who are unable to manage the situations. Situations continually change. The agency does not necessarily train agents how to manage each and every situation, but it does teach them how to focus during events for which there was no instruction. Focusing on these unknown situations
helps the 1811 population, as well as uniform division officers, manage the stress that goes on during a protective detail.
Typically, someone will be on a protective detail for 4 to 5 years. One of the things the agency recognizes is that after a period of time, it becomes prohibitive to stay in that post. For instance, every couple of weeks there are changes, such as going from an 8-4 shift to a 4-12 shift, or from a midnight shift to a 2-week training. That constant change over a 4- to 5-year period is a stressor. Once other life issues such as family are thrown into the mix, it gets increasingly difficult. Therefore, the agency tries to give agents and uniformed division officers the skill sets they need to be able to deal with this through training.
The agency also looks at engagement broadly for all employees. There is a wellness program, which includes seminars focused on giving employees tools to help deal with issues, whether they are physical or emotional, such as dealing with the loss of a family member. From a physical standpoint, there is an emphasis on the physical fitness part of training. Physically fit individuals are better able to deal with other issues. If employees that serve in an operational capacity are not fit, then it is going to create stress by decreasing their ability to keep up with the work schedule including carrying the luggage and equipment that is a big part of travel. There is also a great deal of attention on this issue during recruiting and hiring. All of the materials and conversations with potential recruits constantly focus on physical fitness and issues related to stress. The agency is also going to implement a preemployment physical fitness test.
With just less than 7,000 employees the Secret Service is a small agency. The agency director consistently asserts that people are the agency’s greatest asset. A number of mechanisms target employee engagement. The agency is also looking at the issues and trying to ensure that management has the skill sets needed to deal with the employees and assist them in very stressful situations. Hill noted that an earlier presentation mentioned boredom on the job. This is an issue with the uniform division. The uniform division is the first line of defense protecting the White House, embassies, and other critical areas. Its members need to always be engaged, alert, and ready to respond.
The Secret Service is focused on being prepared in general, and ongoing training from the beginning is critical. DHS is taking the lead to address this issue and pushing to get all of the different components to focus on it as well. However, Hill noted each component has its own culture and issues. Rather than trying to collaborate and align the efforts of
all the components, it might be more effective to find a solution that will custom fit the agencies.
United States Coast Guard
Rear Adm. Mark Tedesco is the Coast Guard surgeon general, the chief safety officer, and the director of the Health, Safety, and Work-Life programs. He oversees services and programs that help support resilience for the Coast Guard.
Although some of the other law enforcement components have some paramilitary characteristics, the Coast Guard is unique among the DHS components because it is the only military service within the department. The Coast Guard operational personnel may not have law enforcement duties, but Tedesco suggested that they struggle with many of the same pressures and stresses. The Coast Guard motto is Semper Paratus, or Always Ready. Everyone in the Coast Guard may have to face unexpected challenges.
About 3 to 5 percent of the Coast Guard is working with DOD forces in central command and operating in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Bahrain. There are tactical maritime SWAT teams whose missions are law enforcement in and around U.S. ports. There are small-boat stations whose primary responsibility is search and rescue and humanitarian response. The small-boat station in Golden Gate, San Francisco, picks up anywhere from one to three suicides off the Golden Gate Bridge per week. Rescue swimmers have to assist people who have lost their lives or are badly traumatized.
The same units that carry out humanitarian life-saving missions also carry out law enforcement missions. No-notice deployments such as Hurricane Katrina or the Haiti earthquake illustrate this issue. The Coast Guard was in Port-au-Prince by 2:00 a.m. the first day after the quake. Weeks later the same personnel had to do alien migrant operations and send people back to Haiti. Those kinds of paradoxes are common. Ten percent of the Coast Guard spent 3 weeks in the New Orleans area to provide support after Hurricane Katrina. Many were pulled out of their normal operating environment to perform this very different mission.
The Coast Guard works every day in an environment that is not a law enforcement or military environment in the domestic United States. The Coast Guard is working to provide resources and support its people who are faced with something difficult or disturbing on the job and then have to go home either to their families or to an empty house.
Tedesco noted that the Coast Guard struggles with the rapidity of communications and information flow. Managing the intake of information and responding at all levels within the organization to keep that operational tempo at top speed is difficult.
The Coast Guard’s mission shifts, and while the security of the homeland is paramount the guard also has a lifesaving service. Since 9/11 the homeland security mission has gone from about 10 percent to about 40 percent of the workload, but none of the other responsibilities has gone away. As a military service, there is constant turnover of personnel leaving the service or transferring through the regular change in assignments.
The guard also is currently made up of a higher than normal percentage of younger personnel. In the past, the Coast Guard has been able to count on the more senior master chiefs to bring the junior staff up to speed. However, as new platforms are brought onboard the master chiefs are inexperienced with them. Tedesco noted that he was in his 40s when 9/11 happened, but 50 percent of today’s Coast Guard was between the ages of 7 and 15 years old. Reaching out to this different demographic is challenging. It responds to different stimuli and has different cultural norms. There is a target-rich environment of information flow for that younger population, and the Coast Guard must learn how to use those kinds of opportunities as part of the solution set.
There is a constant pressure to become more efficient and do more with less. Given the budget pressures, it is not going to be rosy for any department in the government for a while. However, it is important to have perspective on these issues. The Coast Guard’s programs are minuscule compared to DOD’s programs. On the other side of the coin, the Coast Guard’s programs are far more expansive than those in the rest of DHS.
The Coast Guard started participating in a DOD behavior-related health survey in 2008. For 30 years the DOD has conducted a survey every 3 years looking at a variety of health risk behaviors. Through this process the Coast Guard has found some compelling information. The 2008 survey indicated that the Coast Guard has a substance abuse problem. It also indicated that a significant minority who engaged in substance abuse behaviors also screened positive for depression and anxiety.
Coast Guard Health Infrastructure
Tedesco oversees 43 clinic and 150 sick-bay direct health care programs that he can leverage for effect. Tedesco noted that he and his staff are focused on how to best synergize the safety, health, and work-life offices together.
For primary prevention the safety staff can ensure that the work environment is in compliance through inspections and incident response. Their efforts are focused on being proactive and preventing future mishaps. Every mishap is a health risk. Tedesco asserted that the more people are invested in the safety culture, the more they are invested in themselves and shipmates, which helps resilience.
For many of the work-life programs in a military population, it is possible to order personnel to do things or to strongly recommend that they do them. However, it is not possible to order morale. It has been mentioned several times in the workshop that physical fitness underlies resilience. The Coast Guard is going to institute a mandatory exercise program similar to those in the DOD services; it will use an individualized program in the beginning in order to make sure that everybody participates in physical fitness at his or her own pace each week.
Tedesco recently signed a request for a group to explore the Navy’s operational stress control. While addressing stress does not necessarily build resilience, it is one of the underlying factors. The operational stress control program trains leaders how to view their unit, and how to assist their units in dealing with the day-to-day ebb and flow of operational pace. The Coast Guard is also revising the EAP contract. The EAP oversees benefits for both the civilian and military population and their families. The Coast Guard intends to increase the amount of visits and include the reserve population. The reserve population can be hard to reach because its members are not in the Coast Guard most of the time. They are, however, called upon during disasters and have to mobilize quickly. In the past, they would not benefit from the Coast Guard services and programs.
Tedesco concluded that there are two significant issues he would like addressed in this effort. He would like to learn how to reduce stigma and make asking for help a strength, rather than a weakness. He would also like to know how to promote the services and programs that are available so people will take advantage of them.
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Sheila Clark is Chief Component Human Capital Officer at FEMA. FEMA currently has approximately 53,000 permanent full-time employees and approximately 13,000 reservists that support their disaster response and recovery efforts. About 3 or 4 years ago, vacancy announcements started to include a statement that all employees are subject to deployment. The reality of this change did not hit until this year. Because of the number of recent events, FEMA has had to tap into its permanent full-time workforce to meet some of the needs in the field. During the response to Hurricane Irene, FEMA found that members of the permanent full-time workforce were resistant to being deployed even though it was a clear possibility when they were hired. Employees are required to be deployed for a minimum of 3 weeks. Deployment conditions are often not ideal and include some hardships such as infrequent access to showers and living in tents. When people took the position, they often did not consider the impact of being deployed on their families.
Once employees are deployed, FEMA has a stress-management program working the disaster site. The counselors provide counseling information and offer referrals to programs and EAP providers.
To respond to the issue of increased deployments, FEMA has an initiative under way looking at the impact of deploying the permanent fulltime workforce. The initiative will look at family responsibilities, the stress of being deployed, and transitioning after an extended deployment. The imitative will examine the effects of these factors on the attrition rate and increase in worker’s compensation claims. Employees and managers from different parts of FEMA, such as the response and recovery, human capital management, and equal employment offices, are all participating in the initiative. Additionally FEMA is working on a workforce surge initiative that will reach out to other DHS components seeking volunteers from their full-time workforce to support FEMA during major disasters similar to Katrina.
Clark noted that the agency now makes it very clear to people interviewing for positions that they are subject to deployment and what that entails. The FEMA administrator is very open to all employees having the opportunity to be deployed and visit a Joint Field-Office Operation (JFO). FEMA is working to address the issue of deployment on the permanent full-time workforce and is (1) making sure that employees are
secure where they are deployed and (2) ensuring their families are secure while the employees are deployed.
Customs and Border Protection
Linda Gray is the director for CBP’s retirement benefits and medical work-life division. The CBP has started a new but aggressive program to address workforce resilience. The CBP is largely a law enforcement agency and has to deal with many of the conditions discussed by earlier presenters. The organization has experienced a spike in suicides. One of the first things the CBP is focused on is erasing the stigma associated with mental and emotional health concerns. To change attitudes and reduce stigma, the CBP looked at how to change the culture. In the past, representatives from the agency visit families after any type of death, and if the death was a suicide the CBP honorary flag would not be given to the family. About a year ago, with the support of the senior leadership that policy was changed.
In the past, suicide was not discussed. The senior leadership weighed in and has been very actively involved in erasing that stigma, and there is now a campaign on the web. Four different series of suicide prevention workshops take place every Wednesday, and September is mental health awareness month. There has also been a branding effort looking at healthy body, mind, and spirit. It seeks to emphasize that mental well-being is just as important as physical fitness. Additionally, the CBP has seen a spike in EAP use, so people are in fact calling in to get help.
The CBP faces several challenges in promoting resilience in its workforce. The CBP has a mix of different cultures. When the CBP was formed there were three different organizations pulled together with two different cultures. The pace and type of work is very different for the border patrol and uniform officers working at the ports of entry. There are language and culture barriers, so the CBP is looking at the increasing use of EAP services by providing Spanish-speaking counselors.
Gray pointed out that the border patrol already has a physical fitness program. However, for the ports entry workforce, the workload is constant, and there is no time for work-mandated physical fitness training. When Gray visited the ports of entry, officers commented to her that it is not possible to get a workout in when employees are only given two 15-minute breaks that they combine for lunch. Officers have to choose between eating, family, sleeping, and working out. Also, pulling officers
off the line to work out would have people complaining because of the increased wait times
The CBP is starting a pilot a program that will include a fitness component. It will work to find ways to get the officers off the line long enough to work out. There will be a monthly campaign dealing with some area of physical fitness and mental health assistance.
It is difficult to get messages out to personnel who are working in very different environments. There will be displays with information in the duty station, and the CBP will be coordinating with the mission-support people in the field to get information out. Gray noted that she was discouraged to see the suicide rate stay the same after the efforts of the first year. The CBP has looked at trends and found that most of the cases are different and that there are a number of contributing factors. Rather than respond to each event and try to fix that particular area, the CBP is instead looking at systemic issues. With everyone pushing the mission, it is important to make sure they are also checking the pulses and attending to the individuals who have to carry out that mission.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Laronna Bell works with Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) on a number of services including the EAP, health and wellness, and work-life program management. She noted that in the ICE, most requests for or about EAP services come from management seeking information and guidance on helping their employees. The ICE has been working with the staff at the CBP to develop and implement a fitness program for the operational and administrative employees. The ICE has started to address the challenge of communicating with the field offices about various programs and making sure that managers are supported in knowing how to identify and help employees who are experiencing problems.
Department of Homeland Security Components Panel Discussion
Peake noted that there were several themes in the discussions, including the role of physical fitness and leadership, the need to train leaders and managers, and the need to manage employee expectations about the job, such as the possibility for deployment or the realities of shift work. Peake added that changing how the organization functions can
introduce different stressors and potentially affect resilience in other ways. One of the potential consequences would be an increase in turnover. Have the components considered how to measure these types of consequences? Are there potential interventions that might mitigate the negative impacts?
Changes to the Workforce
Several things have the potential to improve the situation for the Coast Guard, Tedesco noted. The guard has recognized that training is an issue and that it is expensive to move personnel. As budgets tighten, costs are a growing constraint. As a result, the Coast Guard is investing more resources into training and is working to move people less frequently. Some new initiatives are going into place for the upcoming assignment season to try to keep people on station up to 6 years, which is previously unheard of in certain mission sets but can create stability for the employees.
Byrne repeated that about three-quarters of TSA employees are in the process of being unionized, and this might create a morale issue. The TSA has been very adamant that it will not treat union employees differently from non-bargaining employees. All employees will have the same disciplinary or grievance issues process. The hope is that this will help manage expectations. He added that the TSA is continuing to develop a security, risk-based organizational culture, and working to empower employees to make positive changes in the workplace is part of that culture.
Gray noted that the poor economy has helped reduce attrition. There has been an increase in EAP services related to relationship issues. The CBP is examining how it can build families and relationships as well as promotional messages around those issues. The CBP has released a series of messages on relationships, and it is trying to reach out to families and encourage employees to work on balancing life and work. The CBP is also trying to look at how to better manage the workload of employees that are struggling with their schedules.
Hill agrees that the poor economy has reduced attrition rates. He noted that the 1811 population (gun-carrying agents) is expected to move to a new detail every 4 to 5 years. He has found that even when recruits go in with the knowledge they will have to move, it is difficult when it actually
happens. People are facing additional issues when it is time to move because of the decline in the housing market. They may lose money when they have to sell their home. As a result, the agency is trying to adjust and be flexible with moving for a year or so. Although it is impossible to predict if a year will help with the housing market it helps with morale when employees know that management is flexible.
Clark commented that at this point deployment is still voluntary. Although it is in the vacancy announcements, employees currently do not sign a statement saying that they understand being deployed is a condition of employment, nor has FEMA negotiated this issue with the union. FEMA is moving toward making it mandatory, however. FEMA is considering how it will affect the ability to hire new people and the attrition rate. Vila asked if FEMA has incentives such as step increases for signing the deployment promise. Clark responded that currently it does not.
Planning committee member David Sundwall reflected that during the 1980s, Surgeon General Koop worked to revitalize the U.S. Public Health Commission Corps. Although the corps is a uniformed service, there had been no expectation that it would be deployed for many years. When the policy was in place, the commissioned officers at the National Institutes of Health or those who had a career in research were most resistant. It took a great deal of leadership and persistence to establish that commissioned officers and researchers would be deployed at some point during their career in the commissioned corps.
Sundwall asked Hill to describe in more detail the skill sets he mentioned in his presentation, in particular how the Secret Service addresses shift work and how shift work affects circadian rhythms. Hill agreed that the effects of the changing shifts are a challenge. The Secret Service found that it was better to have 2-week rotation where agents have the opportunity to work the various shifts and get 2 weeks of training. Travel issues are generally driven by the mission. If the trip is going to be in three different cities, the Secret Service will alternate individuals so agents do not necessarily travel to every city. It is difficult to manage, and there is no way to fix it or prepare or train for it. The Secret Service monitors employees using a formula that has worked for a long time.
Everyone’s stress level is calibrated differently because people handle stress differently.
Workshop speaker Ann Mirabito commented that although almost all of the workshop presentations addressed the importance of leadership being fully engaged it is also critical that rank and file be fully engaged. Different stakeholders have different objectives. She noted that it may be helpful to think about the way those programs are framed for the different stakeholders. The private sector has the same issue. The private sector has chosen to call these programs wellness programs. Byrne commented that it would be helpful if a best practices document could be developed to inform the development of programs for the components. Byrne noted that it is a key point that in any diverse organization communication is always going to be difficult.
Planning committee member Scott Mugno noted that his company struggles with the same issues of dealing with the stigma of using EAPs and how to better promote their use. He asked how the different organizations are addressing stigma and communication issues.
Tedesco responded that the involvement of the most senior leadership has helped. For example, the commandant sent an e-mail to everyone in the Coast Guard explaining that he wants everyone to be engaged with safety and suicide prevention. The core of the message is that the Coast Guard’s personnel are all shipmates, and this is a shared concern. He challenged everyone to be a part of the solution, and then directed people to the health safety and work-life program resources. That type of message is very rare; when the commandant speaks, people are more likely to pay attention then they would to a message from someone else. Byrne added that the TSA has a similar communication mechanism. However, communications from the top leadership are used sparingly for only the most critical issues. He added that most people listen to the senior leadership, but the senior leadership has to be engaged and sincere. It cannot just be a proclamation.
Clark noted that the FEMA administrator communicates the importance of the work by reinforcing that all FEMA employees are emergency management officials, and they are expected to be ready, able, and
available to be deployed at a moment’s notice. Whether they are a GS-5 or at the senior executive level, FEMA employee IDs all include the label “Federal Emergency Response Official” and every employee has a laptop, a blackberry, and a memory key so they can be deployed at a moment’s notice.
Gray noted that everyone is inundated with communications from the different areas, and it is hard to get people’s attention as a result. The CBP human resources office is at the forefront of using podcasts and webinars in DHS. The new messaging from the deputy commissioner will be released in September 2011 in video format.
In closing, Peake commented that the goal of the workshops was to create a productive environment to explore the issues and concerns DHS has in developing a workforce resilience strategy. He added that the discussions at both workshops highlighted the overlapping nature of the issues and shaped some possible institutional approaches that recognize the importance of all the various elements.
At the September workshop, Alexander Garza, Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs and chief medical officer for DHS, commented that several of the presentations from the workshops resonated with him. In particular, he cited the presentations outlining the importance of physical fitness and its contribution to mental health. He agreed with several of the presenters’ comments about the importance of program measurement, but added that it is very difficult to measure people’s or component’s stress or resilience levels at any given time. Altough these things are ambiguous and difficult to measure, it is not prudent to just focus on suicide rates or EAP numbers. It is important that all the information is put together in a meaningful way.
The anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11 reminded the nation to “never forget” and laid the mission of ensuring that something like this never happens again. Over the past decade, DHS made significant strides in securing the nation against disasters, whether man-made or naturally occurring. This mission creates a tremendous amount of stress on DHS’s employees and their families. Garza stated that it is not possible to ensure national security unless we secure the health of the workforce, and that includes mental health. Garza pointed out that DHSTogether has made
extraordinary progress in the past 2 years. The information shared at these workshops will help inform where it goes in the future.
Kathryn Brinsfield closed the November meeting by noting the workshops answered many questions and brought up new ones for DHS to consider. She added that the dedication of the DHS workforce is unquestioned and is evident in the difficult work it does to accomplish its mission. However, after a decade it is time for DHS to shift the view of how to accomplish the mission away from a sprint and instead to see it as a marathon and understand that protecting the workforce ensures that it can carry out the mission in the long run.
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