FDA incentive pay jumps 29% amid troubling times

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FDA employees received more than $35 million in incentive pay in 2007, despite cries from Congress that the agency's earlier bonuses to senior officials were excessive.??

According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), seventeen of the highest paid FDA officials earned more than $200,000—a salary that surpasses that of a member of Congress or the U.S. attorney general, according to documents from Stephen R. Mason, the FDA's acting assistant commissioner for legislation, sent to The House Energy and Commerce Committee. The committee is investigating the FDA's bonus system.??

The WSJ reported that the pay increase comes at a troubling time for the agency, which has had to balance criticism from Congress that pay to senior officials is excessive and bonuses to lower-level employees, such as investigators, are too low.??

To slow the exodus of federal employees to the private sector, Congress expanded a cash bonus program to help retain government workers in 2004.

Figures released Wednesday, however, showed that the 28 top FDA officials together received more than $1 million in retention and merit cash bonuses, some for more than $50,000, according to the WSJ.??

"It is outrageous that bonuses for top officials at FDA increased by nearly 30 percent over the past year despite the agency's poor management,” stated Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., chairman of the committee's investigations panel reviewing FDA compensation. “The additional $8 million the FDA spent on bonuses from April 2007 to April 2008 could have been better spent hiring additional inspectors or improving IT systems, actions FDA acknowledges are critical to improving food and drug safety in this country."