That quote by the late Admiral H. G. Rickover, the “Father of the Nuclear Navy”, points to Department heads and upper management. There seems to be an epidemic of “Not me!”, “They did it”, “I didn’t know” and so on in Washington these days. Where does the buck stop?
Department heads and managers must be knowledgeable of and responsible for the actions of their departments. If someone buys a thousand bucks worth of unneeded office supplies it’s low level stuff, but if someone mismanages millions of taxpayer dollars, violates the legal rights of people or organizations, or gets people killed then that someone and possibly his or her immediate boss should lose their jobs. Why was no one fired when the State Dept. failed to protect the embassy in Benghazi, or the Justice Dept.’s “Fast and Furious” operation sold weapons to drug cartels, or the IRS targeted conservative political groups?
To paraphrase John Donne, “ask not at whom the finger points, it points at you”.
2016 Update: Why were no EPA officials or EPA contractors fired after polluting the Animas River with millions of gallons of toxic mine waste? Heavy metals that settle out on the bottom will be there for a long time.