Working group to stay mum on FDA consolidation plan

The Food and Drug Administration's plan to consolidate field offices and laboratories remains suspended after the release of an interagency group's initial report on import safety.

FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach put the consolidation plan on hold Aug. 1, saying the agency wanted to consider the recommendations of the Working Group on Import Safety, a Cabinet-level panel created by President Bush, before moving forward. The reorganization would close seven of the agency's 13 food and pharmaceutical testing laboratories and four field offices. The working group's initial report, released Monday, generally recommended a wider focused risk-based approach to import safety but did not address the consolidation plan. According to an FDA spokeswoman, the group's final action plan, to be released in November, will not discuss the reorganization either.

"The working group will not be addressing FDA's consolidation plan," the spokeswoman said.

Without an endorsement, or even an assessment, from the working group, the FDA will likely face staunch resistance if it decides to move forward with the controversial plan. The National Treasury Employees Union, representing FDA employees, has criticized the strategy, calling it misguided and unjustified. Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have been critical of any moves to cut the number of food safety analysts amid high-profile instances of food contamination and recall. Both chambers of Congress included language in their fiscal 2008 Agriculture Department spending bills that would restrict laboratory closings.

"The FDA proposal to close more than half of its labs and reorganize its district offices caused nationwide outcry," NTEU President Colleen Kelley said. "Not only was the public alarmed by the threat the proposal caused to the food safety network, but Congress was outraged as well."

Nonetheless, FDA maintained that the plan remains only temporarily suspended and that officials will use this time to reassess it and to see how it could fit in with the working group's general recommendations.

"The suspension will allow [the Office of Regulatory Affairs] to consider the field structure, new tools, systems and other investments necessary to address recommendations that may come from the president's interagency Working Group on Import Safety," the spokeswoman said.

Kelley said with public and congressional opinion turned against the reorganization, FDA should throw in the towel.

"It is time for the FDA to stop insisting that this is a temporary suspension," Kelley said. "FDA employees deserve better than having their top agency officials continue to hold out the threat that the agency may still try and move forward with a plan that is unwelcome by the American public and by Congress."

Kelley said the FDA should instead invest in its workforce in order to strengthen its ability to keep the food supply safe.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.