Of scandals and their effects

How do you measure things that don’t happen?

When federal employees get together for training and meetings, fancy lunches aren’t on the menu anymore. In fact, food of any kind — tuna fish sandwiches, green salad, oatmeal cookies — can no longer be served by the government. Even coffee is off-limits.

Scientists at the Food and Drug Administration and other agencies say they can no longer travel to academic conferences to present their research.

And mental-health workers at military hospitals say they are in danger of losing their licenses because they can’t attend refresher courses.

Three years after the Obama administration clamped down on travel and training in response to the uproar over a Las Vegas conference where hundreds of federal workers partied for four days at taxpayer expense, the restrictions are taking an unanticipated toll. Employees at a wide range of agencies say the rules are gumming up the machinery of government.