Skip to content

FDA Is Its People

January 10, 2020

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 (and growing) 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.” As the mission grows, so must the budget. This is why we anticipate that FDA will need additional dollars (and manpower) every year.

To illustrate the personnel-related focus of FDA’s budget, here are some numbers derived from the President’s FY 20 budget request and cover FY 18. In that year, FDA received a budget authority appropriation of approximately $2.871 billion. Of this, $1.129 billion was used for personnel compensation (i.e., salaries). Benefits took up another $386 million. Altogether, “total personnel compensation and benefits” came to $1.515 billion, about 53% of the total BA budget.

Rental payments to GSA were $170 million and travel and transportation came to $59 million.  Communication and utilities cost the agency $21 million.  Another $2.5 million was spent on printing and communications. These costs are termed “contractual services” and total $256 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 $158 million. Purchase of goods and services from other government agencies totals $157 million. Supplies, materials, equipment, land, and structures cost another $98 million. Altogether, this comes to $413 million, more than 14% of the agency budget.

That brings us just short of the 80% figure, without needing to ask what personnel-related costs are contained in categories such as consulting services ($53 million), other services ($419 million), research and development contracts ($27 million), and grants, subsides, and contributions ($183 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 on their behalf.

Editorial note: The Analysis and Commentary section is written by Steven Grossman, Deputy Executive Director of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA.

Comments are closed.