‘Best in Show’ federal agencies

Every year, since time immemorial, various Washington-based groups (magazines, organizations, associations) do rankings of the best (sometimes worst) places to work in the federal government. The lists change slightly each year. That’s partly because some places genuinely get better (maybe they tried harder) meaning some other agencies get bumped down the list. There is also the practical to consider: Washington is a make-work city. We identify problems (real and not-so- real), then solve them. For a fee. If the same dozen agencies were rated best each year, year-after-year, there would be no point in doing the surveys or in publishing the results. That said …

As a been-there-done-that fed or retiree what, in your experience-based opinion, is the best federal agency? The best place to work from the standpoint of an employee, its mission and its value to taxpayers, like you? There is a good chance the best place to work in government is either the place you are now, the last place you worked and where you wish you had stayed.

I know a number of federal contractors who regularly visit different federal agencies for temporary assignments. Almost all of them say the CIA, which almost everybody is familiar with, is their favorite place to be. They were also very high on the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Not many people are familiar with it, but trust me, it is definitely there. They are also generally high on Defense-related agencies because they say things are run smoothly and the people they deal with are first-class.

Several of us got to talking about the “best-places” concept because of an interesting email we got this week. It was from a youngish woman who left the Defense Department for the civilian side of government. She did it for the experience. And to get a promotion. It was a positive experience, she said, but when the returned to DoD she really appreciated what a great place it is. Like this:


…I finally made the jump back to DoD. I was at the Department of Commerce. I had gone there for a promotion from Defense, and I can say it was positive in that I obtained a promotion and learned how a civilian agency operates.

I can honestly see the difference in structure between a DoD agency and a civilian agency. Defense is definitely more structured. Defense has by far better contract-writing systems, policies and procedures — even given all of the sequestration challenges.

Oh, the stories I could tell you from my 18-plus months in Commerce. My lesson has been learned early on in my career and I am happy to be back in Defense working for the U.S. Navy. I have 20-plus years to go before I can retire. Interestingly, I had gone to the civilian agency not only for the promotion … but because I saw the majority of the best places to work in the federal government are mostly civilian agencies. Interesting, huh? The Department of Commerce is ranked No. 2 for large agencies. Here’s the link.

So, have you been around the federal block? Had experience with more than one department or agency? Have you moved around within your own organization? What did you learn? What can others learn from your journey? Let us know and we’ll definitely pass it on.


Compiled by Jack Moore

The first speeding ticket was given to a New York City taxi driver named Jacob German, who was speeding down Lexington Avenue at 12 miles per hour (the speed limit was eight mph). German was driving an “electrobat,” an electric automobile invented in 1894.


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