It’s not news to most Federal employees that some agencies are having trouble keeping their best people. A combination of retirement, increasing pressure in some jobs, and occasionally the lure of higher pay or better benefits for the most highly-qualified employees can take a toll on the workforce.
But, according to the Wall Street Journal, the Food and Drug Administration has more problems than most agencies.
As is often the case, the problem is most acute among the most highly-skilled employees of the agency. The Journal reports that about 15% of the FDA’s medical-officer jobs are vacant. It hired 45 doctors but then lost 39 since last October.
The problem is worse at the FDA than it is at other similar agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health.
Moreover, many of the agency’s most highly-skilled employees are or soon will be eligible to retire.
The root of the problem, say some former employees, is the pressure to make quick decisions on applications for new drugs. These applications are filed by various companies and action, or inaction, by the FDA has a major impact on both the financial results for the companies involved as well as the health of Americans.
The companies pay big bucks when submitting their applications and that money is used by the agency to hire more people. But the constant deadlines are grinding away at the workforce-a situation that doesn’t exist at some of the other agencies that employ similar professionals.
Salaries for medical professionals can also be much higher with some private sector companies. The agency is now paying bonuses to employees including payments to FDA employees who make referrals that lead to hiring a new employee. The agency also has authority to pay some retention bonuses to entice some key employees to stay with the agency.