The next time you hear someone — a friend, neighbor or elected official — say it is impossible to fire a civil servant, show them this clip:
In it, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke addresses his dismissal of four senior Interior executives charged with sexual harassment. Zinke says that although Interior has “great and passionate people” doing good work, he is prepared to fire 400 more as part of a cultural change at DoI. He said the new policy is “zero tolerance” and that the department will “no longer protect predators.”
Interior has set up a special online hotline where employees can obtain information and the tools necessary to report offenders. The secretary faulted previous administrations for making, then ignoring promises to have a zero-tolerance policy toward sexual harassment.
His action and statements praising the majority of workers is a welcome departure to his remarks earlier this year. The former Navy SEAL’s remarks made headlines around the nation when he said that up to 30 percent of his 75,000 employees weren’t loyal to the administration’s program.
“I’ve got 30 percent of the crew that’s not loyal to the flag,” Zinke said. “We do have good people, but the direction has to be clear and you’ve got to hold people accountable.”
Zinke has also said he wants to move more people out of the Washington headquarters to get them west of the Mississippi, where the bulk of the department’s programs are located. Insiders say lots more changes are coming. Companies that do contract moving for the government are delighted.
The Veterans Affairs Department has also been moving — and firing — top-level employees as part of its long-running effort to improve its client services operation.
State Department watchers report lots of reshuffling. Given the speculation that Secretary Rex Tillerson isn’t long for his job, many career employees are bracing for even more, depending on who his successor (if there is one) is.
Adding to the job insecurity of many new or potential feds is the fact that the House has passed legislation doubling the length of the probationary period for many workers to 24 months. It was done in part as recognition of how long it takes to successfully train people for many government jobs. But it also gives agencies more clout — and time — to cull the herd without giving any reason.
Career employees at the Justice Department are also worried — some that Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be fired, some that he won’t — about the next shoe to drop. The now very public romance between two top FBI officials (one of them married) and their written digs at President Donald Trump also have folks in the lesser ranks anxious.