FDA STAFFING INCREASE COMPROMISE REACHED BETWEEN HOUSE, OMB
This article was originally published in The Tan Sheet
FDA STAFFING INCREASE COMPROMISE REACHED BETWEEN HOUSE, OMB following a dispute over whether FDA personnel levels should be raised under the agency's fiscal year 1994 budget. Under the agreement reached Sept. 30 between Reps. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), John Dingell (D-Mich.) and White House Office of Management & Budget Director Leon Panetta, FDA will be allowed to increase staff levels, but will not be guaranteed the levels previously specified in the House/Senate appropriations conference report, Capitol Hill staffers said. The compromise resolves a dispute triggered by Panetta when he asked the House and, reportedly, the Senate to remove provisions of the FY 1994 Agriculture appropriations measure (which includes FDA funding) that would have set agency staffing levels substantially above current agency employment. Panetta asked Congress to remove all minimum staffing "floors" from the appropriations bill (HR 2493) to bring it in line with federal employment reduction goals outlined in Vice President Gore's "Reinventing Government" proposal. On Sept. 30, the House adopted Senate amendments to the funding measure that eliminate the minimum staffing floors. The report now returns to the Senate, where it is expected to receive pro forma approval before being sent to President Clinton for enactment. The Senate voted to eliminate minimum staffing floors during Sept. 23 consideration of the appropriations conference report. The report, which reconciled differences between House and Senate FDA appropriation bills passed earlier this year ("The Tan Sheet" Aug. 9, p. 18), would have set FDA's employment floor at 9,824 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff positions, a substantial increase from both the level specified in the administration's proposed budget (8,834) and the number authorized for FY 1993 (9,173). The provision also had set floors for the other federal agencies covered by the spending bill. The conference report stated that "none of the funds provided in the act may be used to reduce programs by establishing an end- of-year ceiling on full-time equivalent staff years below the level" specified in the bill, and apparently was intended to counteract the federal hiring freeze declared by OMB. The House passed the conference agreement, including staffing floor provisions, on Aug. 3. During floor consideration of the conference report amendments on Sept. 30, House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Durbin said that "it is our intent that the number of full-time equivalents [at FDA] will increase during the next fiscal year." He noted that OMB has agreed specifically to the hiring of at least 300 new staffers at the Center for Drug Evaluation & Research under the Prescription Drug User Fee Act of 1992 and 65 new employees for implementation of the Mammography Quality Standards Act of 1992. In its letter to Congress, OMB "emphasize[d] the administration's commitment to ensuring that the FDA has sufficient personnel to fulfill its mission," according to a portion of the correspondence read on the floor by Rep. Robert Walker (R-Penn.). As an aside, Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.) mentioned during discussion of the FDA appropriations bill on the House floor that "a top issue in my mailbag these days is the question of FDA interference in Americans' lives and their ability to buy vitamins." However, Goss said that "this is a debate that will have to be resolved another day . . . so we can get on with cutting spending." Funding for the FDA facility consolidation project also made progress toward enactment the week of Sept. 27. A conference report on the Treasury/Postal Service FY 1994 funding bill, which includes money for the FDA campus project, was filed on Sept. 27 and cleared the House on Sept. 29. The measure would provide $ 73.9 mil. for the FDA campus project in the coming fiscal year.
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