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New GAO Reports Underscore Danger of GOP-Proposed Hiring Freeze

Freeze Could Affect FDA Efforts to Monitor Imported Drugs

SOURCE: AP/Pat Wellenbach

A proposed hiring freeze by Congressional Republicans would hurt Food and Drug Administration efforts to ensure Americans get safe medicine from overseas.

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Congressional Republicans are backing a blanket federal hiring freeze that could hurt economic growth and stall or even reverse efforts to ensure that U.S. citizens get quality medicines. Two new reports from the U.S. Government Accountability Office find that the Food and Drug Administration needs more overseas drug inspectors to protect American consumers by checking overseas production facilities. A hiring freeze would hinder efforts to expand overseas staff.

Drugs manufactured in more than 100 countries were imported into the United States in fiscal year 2009. That year the FDA conducted just 424 foreign inspections, covering roughly 11 percent of foreign establishments. By contrast, in 2009 the FDA conducted 1,015 domestic inspections covering approximately 40 percent of domestic establishments.

GAO found in 2008 that the FDA spent most of its time looking into companies that had applied to produce a new drug instead of those already producing drugs for the U.S. market. In response the FDA set up overseas offices in the last two years and dispatched 42 staff to do two-year work rotations abroad.

But the FDA is challenged to fill positions in some of the new office locations, the GAO found, notably after staff reported a reduction in their pay when they went overseas. The GAO recommended that the FDA develop a workforce plan to help recruit and retain overseas staff. The FDA agreed with GAO’s recommendations.

Under a hiring freeze the FDA would potentially not be able to bring in new overseas staff, making it more difficult for the agency to monitor incoming drugs. This is yet another reason why the freeze is a bad idea.

Pratap Chatterjee joined the Center for American Progress in September 2010 as a Visiting Fellow. His work at the Center focuses on federal procurement reform.

For more on how Republican plans to freeze federal hiring would also chill economic growth, see:

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