Testimony on FDA and CFTC Funding


House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture and FDA

NTEU is grateful to have this opportunity to submit this statement of our views on Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations for two agencies under the subcommittee’s jurisdiction where the employees are represented by NTEU -- the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

Food and Drug Administration

The Administration has requested a 5.5% increase ($260 million above the FY19 enacted level) for the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). We are pleased that the Administration did not try to cut or shortchange FDA and that, unlike recent years, the budget request did not propose using new user fees, that have no chance of being enacted, to fund parts of FDA. That said, though this modest funding increase might be acceptable to maintain the important work FDA employees perform, we want to be sure you are aware of how recent actions by this Administration may be creating a personnel crisis at FDA.

FDA employees are among the most highly skilled and dedicated employees that will be found anywhere in the public or private sector. The agency has been able to recruit and retain these skilled scientists, inspectors, chemists and other professionals not because it offers superior pay to the private sector, where their skills are very much in demand, but because of the workforce’s commitment to public service and public health.

The Administration is in serious risk of losing that good will and sacrificial dedication due to an unfortunate and quick sequence of events of their own making. First was the recent 35-day partial government shutdown. This shutdown was absolutely devastating for the employees at the FDA. Many employees were sent home without pay, including at one point 95% of the employees at the Center for Food Safety and Nutrition (CFSAN) and 70% of the employees at the Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA). Some other FDA employees were also called back from furlough and forced to work without pay.

The troubles suffered by employees were much more complicated than just missing paychecks, as significant as that is. Much of the essential work of FDA requires domestic and overseas travel for inspections. FDA employees were required to put their work-related travel expenses on their credit cards with no certainty about when they might receive reimbursement from the agency. This was an absolutely outrageous imposition on employees already being forced to work without pay. One NTEU member in Chicago who was required to work and to conduct an inspection in Poland was initially told to put her airfare, hotel and travel expenses on her personal credit card. Thankfully, NTEU reached an accommodation with management just shortly before she left for Poland and she did not have to bear the full cost of this trip.

Many employees who were forced to work without pay still had to bear the expenses of child care and commuting. And those who were home often faced the dilemma of either continuing to pay for child care or losing their spot with the provider. In Philadelphia, an FDA employee had to take out a loan because he had two kids in college and their tuition was due during the shutdown.

During the shutdown, FDA employees suffered both personal hardship and, because of their dedication to their public service work, they were troubled by the critical tasks they knew were not being done to protect the health and safety of the American consumer.

Now, Departmental leadership at Health & Human Services (HHS) is refusing to bargain in good faith with its employees. Instead, they declared an impasse and turned to the Federal Services Impasses Panel (FSIP) to impose a contract that the employees essentially had no say in. FSIP has sided with HHS to roll back key provisions that HHS employees had fought for over years—decreasing telework opportunities, shortening employee appeals, and restricting sick leave.

Given that federal employee morale is already suffering due to the 35-day partial government shutdown, proposed pay freezes, and additional anti-worker proposals in the President’s budget, this attack will further decimate employee morale. FDA is a staff-intensive organization, with more than 80% of its budget devoted to staff costs. The subcommittee should consider that skilled professionals who had been willing to work in public service for less compensation than offered by the private sector could now decide to leave the agency. This would impose tremendous costs in recruitment and training of new employees. It would frankly mean that funds now dedicated to other purposes would have to be diverted to this purpose, compromising important FDA programs.

Commodity Futures Trading Commission

NTEU is proud to also represent the employees at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Every day, the work the CFTC does to protect consumers in the marketplace grow more complex. Having a vigorous free market requires that the “cops” detailed to that “beat” have the resources necessary to police the ever-growing marketplace and the advancing technological developments that enable both market expansion and market fraud.

For the CFTC, NTEU strongly supports the Administration’s request of $284 million, excluding additional funding for a possible move of the New York Regional Office. This request is extremely modest. The Administration’s chosen leader of the CFTC, Chairman Giancarlo, has been very thoughtful in developing a budget for CFTC. The budget for CFTC is almost entirely salaries and expenses. Shortchanging him on his request would leave the market open to fraud and deceit.

The Administration also calls for part of this request ($65 million) to be funded by a new user fee. It has long been NTEU’s position that CFTC should be fully funded by user fees, as are all other of the FIRREA agencies we represent. Fee funding brings a needed stability and predictability to these investor protecting agencies. However, should Congress fail to authorize fees, the budget needs of CFTC remain the same and we ask however funded, the full Administration request be made available to CFTC. Further, any new duties given to CFTC would require additional resources to carry out those duties.

NTEU appreciates the opportunity to present this statement.