"Screw up, move up” is a bureaucratic joke, cited in print since at least 1981 (then referring to the U.S. Army). The opposite is supposed to be true, where a person moves up because of competence.
In the 1990s, “Screw Up—Move Up” was said to be the motto of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). INS was renamed and reorganized to become part of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (ICE) in March 2003, but the “Screw Up—Move Up” motto is still used by some of its critics.
Wikipedia: Immigration and Naturalization Service
The United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), ceased to exist under that name on March 1, 2003, when most of its functions were transferred from the Department of Justice to three new components within the newly created Department of Homeland Security, as part of a major government reorganization following the September 11 attacks of 2001. These three components include U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Wikipedia: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enfocement
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is a federal law enforcement agency under the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for identifying, investigating, and dismantling vulnerabilities regarding the nation’s border, economic, transportation, and infrastructure security. The largest components within DHS are Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Enforcement & Removal Operations (ERO). Headquartered in Washington, D.C., ICE is charged with the investigation and enforcement of over 400 federal statutes within the United States, and maintains attachés at major U.S. embassies overseas.
Women in the Modern Army
By Helen Rogan
New York, NY: Putnam
She added, “I don’t know what’s happened to the standards. We say the new motto is Screw Up, Move Up.”
In the Men’s House:
An inside account of life in the Army by one of West Point’s first female graduates
By Carol Barkalow and Andrea Raab
New York, NY: Poseidon Press
The old Army truism — “Screw up and move up” — seemed to be at work again.
New York (NY) Times
Blind Eye: How the Immigration System Handles Discipline—A special report.; Behind One Agency’s Walls: Misbehaving and Moving Up
By STEPHEN ENGELBERG and DEBORAH SONTAG,
Published: December 21, 1994
Mr. Carter’s case illustrates what many immigration officers see as the agency’s historic failure to hold managers accountable for egregious wrongdoing. They say a “good old boys club” has often protected people like Mr. Carter, the third generation of his family to serve in the Border Patrol. Cynics in the agency sum up its personnel practices with the motto, “Screw up—move up.”
Power and Pathology
By Karl W. Ryavec
Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Pub.
There is even a cynical motto in the INS: “Screw up — move up.”
SCREW UP, MOVE UP
By Michelle Malkin • September 27, 2005 07:10 AM
Bureaucratic insiders at the old INS had a slogan that sums up the management philosophy of the government workforce concisely: “Screw up, move up.”
The World of Corporate Managers
By Robert Jackall
New York, NY: Oxford University Press
One sees long-time political insiders in Washington who “screw up and move up,” an aphorism that aptly captures the ethos of government bureaucracies.
Sword of Phoenix
By Ronald E. Whitley
Then there is the Peter Principal (sic) that says, “People are promoted to their level of incompetence” or, “screw up, move up.”
New York City • Government/Law/Military/Religion /Health • (1) Comments • Sunday, April 17, 2011 • Permalink