Compensation Issues

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CDC director requests cut to $375k salary following senator's questions

Newly appointed CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, requested his $375,000 salary be reduced after a Democratic senator and others sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar asking why Dr. Redfield's salary is nearly twice what his predecessor earned, The Washington Post reports.

Mr. Azar agreed to Dr. Redfield's request for a reduced salary, an HHS spokesperson told The Washington Post April 30. Dr. Redfield told Mr. Azar he did not want his salary to become a distraction from his role as CDC director, according to the spokesperson. Officials did not offer details on Dr. Redfield's new salary.

In a letter April 27 to Mr. Azar, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., requested justification for why the agency offered Dr. Redfield "a salary significantly higher" than that of his predecessors and other HHS leaders.

"It is difficult to understand why someone with limited public health experience, particularly in a leadership role, is being disproportionately compensated for his work as compared to other accomplished scientists and public health leaders in comparable roles within the federal government," Ms. Murray wrote.

Ms. Murray noted Dr. Redfield was hired under Title 42, a salary program that aims to attract health scientists with skills critical to government work. However, it is not typical to use Title 42 to recruit a CDC director. Dr. Redfield's predecessor, Brenda Fitzgerald, MD, who was director for six months before her January resignation, had an annual pay of $197,300 and was not paid under Title 42. Dr. Fitzgerald's predecessor, Tom Frieden, MD, whose annual pay was $219,700 before he left the position in January 2017, was also not paid through that program.

"The Secretary of Health reduced Dr. Redfield's salary only after concerns were raised, and the public still deserves thorough answers to my questions about why Dr. Redfield — who has limited public health experience to begin with — was hired under a special hiring authority intended for candidates with rare scientific, technical, or clinical skills, and at a higher salary than many Cabinet secretaries," Ms. Murray added.

In an effort to comply with government ethics rules, Dr. Redfield announced his resignation earlier in April from positions at four groups, including a gene therapy biotechnology company and an AIDS organization.

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