The Pew Charitable Trusts wanted to know if that’s still the case, because “FDA is critically important to protecting the public health,” said Kathleen Stratton, Pew’s director of the Innovate FDA Project. It asked the Partnership for Public Service to find out.
“FDA has made progress,” says the Partnership’s report, but the agency “continues to have significant workforce and management challenges in the scientific and medical arenas that need to be addressed.”
The Partnership will release its study, “The State of the FDA Workforce,” Tuesday. It cites several improvements the agency has made since 2007, including the use of visiting scientists, a fellowship program, new training for medical device reviewers, a peer review program and the return this year to the FDA of its human relations office, which had been centralized in the Department of Health and Human Services.
But the FDA’s HR system still isn’t the “well-oiled machine” Stratton says it needs to be.
Although the FDA cites a significant cut in hiring time, from 159 days to 80 days, the “hiring process is broken and needs fixing” because it “remains slow and cumbersome,” according to the Partnership. (The nonprofit organization has a content-sharing relationship with The Washington Post.)
Almost half of the full-time permanent workforce earns more than $100,000, yet the freeze on basic pay rates that affects all federal employees, and the lack of raises and retention bonuses, have contributed to the FDA’s troubles. Scientists and doctors “can often earn more money in private industry, and that has been a perennial problem,” the report says.
Among the Partnership’s recommendations are that the FDA should develop targeted recruitment and talent pipelines and speed hiring; invest in career training and develop clear career paths for science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine employees; and address high rates of attrition in certain areas, including pharmacy and consumer safety.
Pointing to the FDA’s “significant progress in improving our recruitment and retention practices,” Darla Callaghan, the agency’s director of human resources, said, “We take the report findings seriously and will consider the recommendations for addressing the workforce and management challenges.”
DHS morale problems
A recent Government Accountability Office report confirms what has become a truism within the Department of Homeland Security: It has morale problems.
This latest study says that “since it began operations in 2003, DHS employees have reported having low job satisfaction.” That low rating, the report continues, is one of “the challenges the department faces implementing its missions.”