F.D.A. in major hiring initiative

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — In the face of mounting pressure from Congress to improve operations, especially in the areas of food and safety, the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday unveiled a major hiring initiative that will aim to fill 1,317 positions by October.

The F.D.A. said 770 positions will be new jobs, while the remaining 547 will be used to fill current vacancies — nearly triple the number of people hired from 2005-07.

"It takes a large pool of talented people for the F.D.A. to protect and promote the public health," said John Dyer, the F.D.A.’s deputy commissioner for operations and chief operating officer. "Each month there is a delay in bringing critical staff on board, which impairs the agency’s ability to fulfill this mission."

While the F.D.A. is hiring hundreds of individuals with science and medical backgrounds, the areas of critical need identified by the administration include consumer safety officers, biologists, microbiologists and health scientists. The Center for Food Safety and Nutrition is expected to fill 91 new positions and 13 backfill jobs, the F.D.A. said.

F.D.A. spokesman Christopher Kelly said the initiative is the largest expansion done agency-wide since the counter-terrorism hiring-initiative following the September 11 attacks. He said the hirings will be accomplished through a combination of user fees and appropriated dollars. No funding will be diverted from other programs to hire new personnel, he said.

"We are accomplishing this through a working group at F.D.A. that has prepared a strategy for recruiting the best talent available, through job fairs, conferences, etc. that focus on these disciplines," Mr. Kelly said. "We have sent a message to the current F.D.A. staff to encourage their participation in the initiative as well."

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