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Gottlieb: Government Shutdown is ‘Not Business as Usual’

Posted 11 January 2019 | By Ana Mulero 

Gottlieb: Government Shutdown is ‘Not Business as Usual’

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb provided agency staff with a furlough update on Friday over the ongoing government shutdown, stressing that the impact on the agency is “not business as usual at the FDA.”
The House passed an appropriations bill Thursday that included FDA funding, but the shutdown continued as the Senate did not take up the bill.
“To the extent that a lot of our work is not going on, and many of our people are furloughed, important activities are not occurring,” Gottlieb said to agency staff. “Despite these challenges, we’re focusing our resources on the things that matter most: our consumer protection role and keeping Americans safe. I’m grateful for your continued dedication to that mission, and to advancing our shared priorities.”
A new mailing address was set up for FDA employees to share ideas on how to advance actions that would ease the burden caused by the shutdown. This release came in conjunction with the update provided by Gottlieb for agency staff that have been furloughed, following the new information on a lapse in funding Q&A section that was posted on FDA’s website Friday.
The new information answers questions such as whether furloughed employees can be granted holiday leave or use paid leave.
“For me, one of the most challenging parts of this is the human impact—at all levels—inside and outside our organization,” Gottlieb said. “I know that many of our FDA colleagues are being placed in difficult circumstances, and we’re asking many of you to do hard things.”
Gottlieb added that the agency is “asking many people to continue to work while sacrificing pay” for it to meet its obligation to the American people. “Others are being asked to carry out their work to the best of their ability without the bench strength of their normal units,” he said. “And I never lose sight of the personal hardship and strain that’s placed on many of our unpaid, excepted and furloughed colleagues given the uncertainty of lapsed pay.”
The update follows on the heels of an article seven former FDA commissioners from both sides of the political aisle published in Health Affairs that made the argument for FDA to be an independent federal agency. Former FDA commissioner also discussed this argument last year, citing political pressures among other issues. 
“We are like no other agency in the government,” Gottlieb noted. “We fill a very unique and vital role. Americans literally can’t live without the opportunities and protections that we provide. That’s what brought us here. It’s what keeps us here. And it’s what guides our work through times of opportunity and times of challenge.”
Information on the impact caused by the shutdown as it relates to FDA funding from industry user fees and FDA operations has trickled out over the past two weeks.
Furlough Update and New Mailbox for Staff: January 11, 2019

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