FDA is first and foremost a service organization, devoted to assuring the American people can count on safe food and safe and effective medical products. The agency is also responsible for cosmetics, dietary supplements, animal food and drugs and a whole lot more. As we all know, it’s a very large mission that is a core function of government.
FDA’s work is labor-intensive — there are no widgets to sell and very little dispensing of grants. FDA’s staff are what makes FDA succeed. They need salaries and receive benefits. These costs are often higher than for other agencies because FDA’s workforce needs to be better educated to deal with medical, scientific and public health issues.
Also, employees don’t work in isolation. They need offices, computers, phones, heating and air conditioning, utilities, training, travel (especially for the agency’s field staff), lab and other equipment, and access to research and publications. Beyond salaries and benefits, much of the agency’s contracting is for these and other services that support personnel and facilities.
To encapsulate this, the Alliance often talks about how “more than 80% of FDA budget pays for personnel-related costs.” It describes the agency well and also explains why FDA’s growing mission needs additional dollars (and manpower) every year.
In FY 17, FDA received a budget authority appropriation of approximately $2.742 billion.* Of this, $1.122 billion was used for personnel compensation (i.e., salaries). Benefits took up another $377 million. Altogether, “total personnel compensation and benefits” came to $1.5 billion, about 55% of the total BA budget.
Rental payments were $179 million and travel and transportation came to $51 million. Communication and utilities cost the agency $18 million. Another $1.5 million was spent on printing and communications. These costs are termed “contractual services” and total $250 million. That represents about 9% of the agency budget.
Then there are a series of miscellaneous costs. Operation and maintenance of facilities and equipment comes to $190 million. Purchase of goods and services from other government agencies totals $130 million. Supplies, materials, equipment, land, and structures cost another $94 million. Altogether, this comes to $414 million, about 15% of the agency budget.
That brings us just short of the 80% figure, without needing to ask FDA what personnel-related costs are contained in categories such as consulting services ($52 million), other services ($352 million), research and development contracts ($19 million), and grants, subsides, and contributions ($151 million).
FDA is its people. The agency’s staff is the source of all its accomplishments. They need our support in order to do their jobs well. Our advocacy makes a difference.
Editorial note: The Analysis and Commentary Section is written by Steven Grossman, Deputy Executive Director of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA.