“Friendly” competition between the armed forces is a tradition old as the services themselves.
Consider modern examples: the Army-Navy football game. The dividing of the defense budget pie each year. The Army is the biggest, oldest sibling, while the Space Force is the youngest (The Coast Guard is part of the armed services but is not overseen by the U.S. Department of Defense.).
Here’s another: the U.S. Department of the Air Force was ranked the best defense-related agency to work for compared to the other military services, according to the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service and Boston Consulting Group.
Each year, the Partnership for Public Service analyzes job satisfaction among federal workers and ranks agencies against that by size. The overall rankings are determined by a “employee engagement and satisfaction” score, which assigns a combined value to three questions from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey conducted last summer: Do you recommend your organization as a good place to work, how satisfied are you with your job, and how satisfied are you with your organization?
The rankings often clue leaders and job applicants in to the culture and environment of federal agencies and can be a tool in determining where to work. At the same time, the Pentagon is dealing with similar recruitment troubles at the civilian level as it is for its enlisted ranks. The department is struggling to pay its employees at levels offered in the private sector, to recruit younger workforces with the necessary talent to bring new technology to the agency and to stave off attrition as all Baby Boomers will be retirement eligible in seven years. The Department of Defense employs more than 750,000 civilians, though Congress has pointed to that workforce as a source for budget cuts.
When looking at the services’ departments, the Air Force had the highest overall score for employee engagement and satisfaction, followed by the Army, Navy, Space Force and Marine Corps. If you count the U.S. Coast Guard under the Department of Homeland Security, that takes over as highest overall score among the services.
In general, the departments as single entities ranked in the middle of other large federal civilian agencies. Out of 17, the offices of the Secretary of Defense and Joint Staff ranked collectively as eighth out of 17 large agencies. In that same category, the Air Force took 9th place, Army took 11th and the Navy took 13th.
In the small agency category of 30 offices, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board ranked 16th.
The Partnership data considers the Marine Corps and the Space Force as subcomponent agencies. They did not do well, ranking 388th and 326th out of 432, respectively.
In that same list, the Defense Technical Information Center ranked fifth from the bottom. Others ranking in the bottom 20 of that list include (in order of better to worse) U.S. Army Medical Command, Air Force Elements - U.S. Cyber Command and Headquarters of Air Force Reserve Command.
In the bottom 50, 30% of the agencies were Defense-related.
Molly Weisner is a staff reporter for Federal Times where she covers labor, policy and contracting pertaining to the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.