Big bonuses for FDA brass rile critics

Some time back we heard about the FDA handing out $35 million in bonuses under a new incentive-pay plan. Well, today CBS News has some details. First off, $1 million of that went to 28 top executives. One associate commissioner whose plan to overhaul field labs was rejected as "poorly thought out": $48,000. The director of the office of criminal investigations: $41,000, bringing his total income to $208,000, more than the director of the FBI. The person who reformed the bonus system got the biggest bonus: $58,000. That may not be a lot for, say, a Wall Street banker, but in civil service it definitely is.

FDA Commissioner Andy von Eschenbach explained the bonuses--which averaged $37,000--as necessary to attract and retain "highly experienced, highly capable technical experts." But FDA critics say one quarter of the bonuses went not to technical folk but to bureaucrats, and the same bureaucrats are getting "retention bonuses" year after year. (Maybe a label change is in order?) Also, Congressional investigators say FDA is more lavish with its bonuses than other government agencies are.

What riles Sen. Bart Stupak, a frequent FDA critic, is that the agency hasn't exactly been winning lots of kudos lately. Remember, the FDA's own science board said it's a broken agency, lagging far behind in the science and so woefully under-funded and understaffed that it can't guarantee the public's safety. "They've done such a miserable job these last two years, I think they should leave!" Stupak told CBS. "Not get bonuses of $40,000 to $50,000! Good grief."

- read the CBS article