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Regulatory Focus™ > News Articles > 2020 > 5 > GAO finds HHS not using new authority for hiring top scientists at FDA, NIH

GAO finds HHS not using new authority for hiring top scientists at FDA, NIH

Posted 08 May 2020 | By Michael Mezher 

GAO finds HHS not using new authority for hiring top scientists at FDA, NIH

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has not used new authorities granted under the 21st Century Cures Act to recruit and retain senior scientists to the department or its sub-agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Government Accountability Office said in a report published Friday.
 
Specifically, the report looked at HHS’ implementation of Section 3071 of the Cures act, which expanded the Senior Biomedical Research Service (SBRS) to cover biomedical product assessment, increase its ranks from 500 to 2,000 members, raise top-level pay to $400,000 per year and expand the program to include scientists with master’s degrees in certain disciplines.
 
However, the report did not address a separate provision in Cures that expanded FDA’s hiring authority for scientific, technical and professional personnel which also raised the salary cap to $400,000 and allowed the agency to develop its own alternative pay system. (RELATED: FDA updates on Cures Act workforce enhancements, Regulatory Focus 29 June 2018).
 
While HHS issued regulations last month on implementing the recruitment and retention authorities, GAO found it has yet to use them to recruit or retain biomedical research scientists. GAO also said that HHS is in the process of preparing guidance to allocate the 2,000 positions among FDA, NIH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for healthcare Research and Quality.
 
FDA and NIH officials told GAO they will begin the recruitment and retention process after receiving those slots, and FDA officials said that it could take up to six months to select scientists for the positions.
 
GAO

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