"Life isn't fair" is a cop-out,
isn't it? Once, people talked about fairness
and justice as civic virtues, along with
courage and temperance. Now, everything is
gray. Theoretically, the legal system and
Federal service aim to implement these goals.
All too often greed, lust for power or just
plain apathy sidetrack the ideal.
Some say "It's just money" or "It's just politics." Isn't something really lost? Whether framed in spiritual, personal or organizational terms, rationalizations mean the problem either just remains or keeps repeating itself. Maybe the incentives need changing. Congress recently tried that again through the NoFEAR Act. Experience shows it's unlikely that even a manager lackadaisical toward known inefficiencies or illegality will sing the same tune when his salary or budget is on the line. That's why qui tam or private whistleblower actions work at exposing fraud upon the government.
Unfortunately, the current MSPB/OSC system encourages a cost-benefit analysis that at least condones, if not encourages, escalating reprisal against whistleblowing subordinates. Hostile work environments created by retaliation are too common. Bullies of every age invariably rationalize their actions, usually blaming the victim. Labeling a whistleblower as a "snitch" or "troublemaker," pronouncing he "deserves it" or "has low self esteem" is easy. Yet to the extent the current system encourages bullies, it only creates future victims. Then we all lose, as citizens and taxpayers.
Actions are harder to deny than words. Recently the OSC and MSPB reluctantly acknowledged a few obviously retaliatory actions. But that may only be a public face, given the secrecy of their proceedings. Perhaps someday the Federal Circuit will join other federal judges in enforcing judicial and constitutional standards, rather than hide behind unpublished cases and unproven assertions that all "good" or "real" cases settle. Too often, as Congress once again determined before enacting NoFEAR, whistleblowing feds hangs in the wind for a long time. Most then leave. These actions undercut the ethical framework of statutes and regulation.
Clearly, creating this web page is going outside the System. Is it naivete or hope to suggest starting a discussion about the value of these witnesses? Talking is the first step, the sane way. If the government really is being reinvented, this seems a good place to start.
I practice what I preach. I value my anonymity, hence the pseudonym. Still, viewers can contact Congress and point out the need for change. Or work within your own agency. There are good people out there--as well as crazy ones and bully bosses. Ultimately, each individual federal employee (including everyone from legislators and judges down to the lowliest personnel support specialist) must decide the balance through his or her actions.