November 12, 2006
Civil Service Jobs & Politics
Dan Zegart at The Nation has a piece [sub. req.] about the FDA in the 11/20 issue. After describing a death and multiple near-deaths at a Puerto Rican hospital (and no warning letter issuing), he continues:
Over the past five years warning letters have become an endangered species at the FDA. According to a recent report by Representative Henry Waxman, the number of such letters issued under Bush-appointed FDA chief counsel Dan Troy plummeted from 1,154 in 2000 to 535 in 2005. Seizures of mislabeled, defective or dangerous products, another key measure of enforcement activity, dipped 44 percent. Waxman's investigators found a disturbing pattern of laissez-faire managers overuling [sic] field agents trying to discipline wrongdoers--even when deaths had resulted.
The changes at the FDA are but one result of an unprecedented attempt by the Bush team to extend direct political control deep into operational areas throughout the executive bureaucracy, especially at agencies where the Administration has strong policy interests such as the FDA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Justice Department and the Interior Department. . . .
Thanks to the anti-regulatory course set by Troy and his counterparts at other agencies, many longtime bureaucrats have simply quit. But what is actually happening is more complex and far-reaching than mere brain drain. More accurately, the executive branch is undergoing a brain transplant. An entire culture of civil service professionals loyal to their agency's mission is being systematically replaced with a conservative cadre accountable to the White House. While every President appoints his own "politicals" to run the departments, the Bush team has broken new ground, attempting to realign the executive branch permanently by junking a 100-year-old system of merit-based hiring for career bureaucrats.
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