FDA staffing push yields 1,300 hires

Remember the FDA's push to expand its staff by some 600 positions and fill hundreds more that had gone vacant? Well, now the agency says it's achieved its goal with 1,300 new people on the payroll. Kimberley Holden, who's directed the recruitment drive, said the breakdown ended up at 770 new positions and 547 hires for long-unfilled jobs.

Holden told the Associated Press that the new hires will fill in some big holes in the agency's lineup. For years, as the FDA has suffered under reputation-damaging safety problems, seasoned medical and scientific staff have been abandoning ship for more lucrative jobs in the industry.

The largest number of new folks will go to the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, which will get more than 660 additional workers. Food safety will get 104, which amounts to a 10 percent increase for the smaller division. Enforcement will get 245.

Former FDA execs say the additional staff won't really push the agency forward much, just take it "back to where they were in earlier years," said William Hubbard, a former associate commissioner who's lobbying for longer-term increases in the agency's budget. That's one thing observers say the agency will need to keep the new hires, because raises don't always make the funding cut in Congress--and retaining employees does tend to cost something.

- see the story in Forbes