FDA Resources:

Comprehensive Assessment of Staffing, Facilities, and Equipment Needs

HRD-89-142: Published: Sep 15, 1989. Publicly Released: Sep 15, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO assessed whether the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had sufficient resources to meet its current and future responsibilities, focusing on its: (1) staffing requirements and staff recruitment and retention rates; and (2) laboratory, space, and equipment needs.

GAO found that: (1) new legislation, public health crises, and product tampering incidents have significantly increased FDA responsibilities, but its staffing level has declined 7.5 percent since 1980; (2) although FDA estimated that it would need more than 2,000 positions to replace those lost and to handle its increased responsibilities, the administration's fiscal year 1990 budget called for an FDA staffing level of about 1,800 less than those needs; (3) FDA lacked the uniformity in its internal management information systems to substantiate its staffing needs; (4) although FDA studied how to use its declining resources more efficiently and effectively, it neither assessed all of its activities to determine what to accomplish with its limited resources, considered shifting work to other agencies or industry to accomplish it mandates, nor identified activities no longer needed; (5) FDA also had difficulties in filling senior-level positions because of pay and fringe benefits, inadequate office and laboratory space, and the high cost of living in the Washington, D.C., area; (6) FDA headquarters offices and laboratories, located in 23 facilities, were decentralized and dispersed across 7 sites throughout the Washington, D.C., area, and had inadequate electrical, heating and cooling, and waste disposal systems; (7) office space for staff at all levels was far below the amount prescribed in General Service Administration (GSA) standards and was so cramped in some cases that staff could only partially open some doors; (8) FDA and GSA both agreed that FDA needed to consolidate its activities in one location, which would cost between $447 million and $477 million, depending on the buildings already present at the chosen site; and (9) based on government equipment replacement criteria, FDA should have replaced 29 percent of its scientific equipment.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress appropriated funds for a study of FDA resources' need assessments.

    Matter: To provide a more accurate basis for determining FDA resource needs, Congress should require the Commissioner, FDA, to make an agencywide assessment to identify and prioritize its activities and responsibilities.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The FDA May 1991 comprehensive needs assessment addressed: (1) leadership and management principles; (2) long-term direction and goals; and (3) estimated future resource needs.

    Recommendation: In order to effectively carry out the recommendations, the Commissioner, FDA, should determine the agencywide management information systems it will need to ensure that officials have the data to accurately assess: (1) FDA staff and resource needs; and (2) how well its mission is being carried out and how effectively current resources are being used. Due to the urgency of FDA problems, FDA should place a high priority on completing its comprehensive assessment.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services: Public Health Service: Food and Drug Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The FDA May 1991 comprehensive needs assessment addressed: (1) leadership and management principles; (2) long-term direction and goals; and (3) estimated future resource needs. This study will be used to assess FDA staffing, facilities, and equipment needs.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner, FDA, should identify the management changes FDA would implement to match specified staffing levels with higher-priority responsibilities (e.g., consolidation, shifting of low-priority tasks to third parties).

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services: Public Health Service: Food and Drug Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The FDA May 1991 comprehensive needs assessment addressed: (1) leadership and management principles; (2) long-term direction and goals; and (3) estimated future resource needs. This study will be used to assess FDA staffing, facilities, and equipment needs.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner, FDA, should determine the activities FDA can effectively undertake given a specified level of staffing increases (e.g., a 2-percent, 10-percent, or 15-percent increase over 1989).

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services: Public Health Service: Food and Drug Administration

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The FDA Advisory Committee (Edwards Committee) findings and comprehensive needs assessment were published in May 1991.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner, FDA, should assess the agency's responsibilities and the staffing requirements to meet these responsibilities, based on present and future projections.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services: Public Health Service: Food and Drug Administration

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The information contained in the FDA May 1991 comprehensive needs assessment will be used by Congress to assess FDA staffing, facilities, and equipment needs.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner, FDA, should use the information it develops as a basis to assess its facility and equipment needs. This assessment would be intended to ensure that space, laboratory, and equipment plans are synchronized with the agency's concentration of staffing resources on higher-priority activities. Furthermore, FDA should prepare a timetable for the staffing, systems, and management changes it will implement as a result of its assessment.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services: Public Health Service: Food and Drug Administration

 

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