There’s a saying in the military, although in more explicit terms, that “trouble rolls downhill.” Federal employees are finding out just how much that applies on the civilian side of the government. Scandals involving the government have spilled over into impacts on federal workers—often far below the level that caused the problem.

This is nothing new, of course. The IRS mismanagement scandals of the 1990s resulted in a series of reforms that among other things created the “10 deadly sins” – a list of offenses for which firing of an employee was required, even though under normal circumstances that might not happen. That set the precedent for similar policies at two of the government’s largest departments, Defense and Homeland Security, that were in turn seen as the precedent for expanding that philosophy government-wide. Fortunately for employees, even the DHS and DoD policies never took effect, first being temporarily blocked and later rescinded. But the “punish ‘em all” philosophy never is far below the surface.

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