Workers at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, under fire for its slow response to Hurricane Katrina, have among the least rewarding jobs in the federal government, a study released on Wednesday showed.

In a survey of 150,000 workers at 30 federal agencies on their job satisfaction, Homeland Security ranked second to last, just ahead of the Small Business Administration.

Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency has been heavily criticized for its slow response to Hurricane Katrina and FEMA director Michael Brown resigned on Monday after being removed from the relief effort in the region.

According to the study, effective leadership twinned with meaningful work had the most impact on employee morale.

The Office of Personnel Management collected data on employee satisfaction in ten categories. The information was then analyzed by the Partnership for Public Service and American University’s Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation.

Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service, admitted Homeland Security’s performance was not encouraging but said it was not a surprise given that parts of 22 agencies were “cobbled together” to create the department in 2003.

“It is typical of when you see large-scale merger and change operations, whether it is the private sector or the public sector, it has a very large impact on employee morale,” Stier said.

“There is a lot of work to do to make sure that DHS has the kind of engaged employee that will enable it to better meet the challenges that it will undoubtedly face going forward.”

The White House Office of Management and Budget was rated the best agency to work for and its management celebrated the achievement.

“Engaging employees and holding managers accountable for results is critical to our success and we look forward to bringing these successful strategies to more federal agencies,” Clay Johnson, OMB’s deputy director for management, said in a statement.

The survey showed that employees at three out of four federal agencies were more committed to their jobs and more satisfied than two years ago.

Other top-ranked departments included the National Science Foundation, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Government Accountability Office and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The bottom five rungs on the ladder were taken up by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the National Archives and Records Administration, the Office of Personnel Management, Education Department, Homeland Security and Small Business.