Public health officials are blaming budget cuts for the slow response to the growing Ebola crisis, but officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have earned billions in salaries and bonuses since 2007, federal records show.
According to information from American Transparency's OpenTheBooks.com
a total of $6 billion in salaries and another $25 million in bonuses have been paid out to specialists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since 2007, reports The Washington Times
Meanwhile, the agency added 23 percent more employees, raising their payrolls even though federal wages were frozen between 2010 to 2013 because of budget cuts. However, the officials still paid themselves with overtime, bonuses, and promotional pay raises.
The federal records show that Donald Shriber, the deputy director for policy and communication at the agency's Center for Global Health, got the highest bonus, $62,895 in 2011 and took home $242,595 in wages.
Donda Hansen, a CDC representative, said Shriber received the bonus after winning the Presidential Rank Award in 2011 for his leadership abilities.
Last week, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins
said without budget cuts, his agency likely would have had an Ebola vaccine.
"Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would've gone through clinical trials and would have been ready," Collins said.
Meanwhile, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said in an opinion piece for Politico Magazine
that the CDC had the funding it needed but that the Obama administration was to blame for using it primarily for fighting infectious diseases rather than preventive research measures.
The budgets for the NIH and the CDC have remained stationary since Obama took office in 2008. Back in 2010, the CDC budget was $6.31 billion, The Times reports. The latest budget request puts the CDC's funding at $5.39 billion, but another $809 million in contributions from the Prevention and Public Health Fund brought the budget back up to $6.2 billion.
Employees at the CDC make higher than average salaries as well. Federal employees make an average of $79,030, but the average CDC employee earns $95,015.
"Employees at the embattled CDC have been making millions in higher-than-average salaries and bonuses," said OpenTheBooks.com founder Adam Andrzejewski. "CDC executives 'gamed the system' to increase employee pay through bonuses during three years of the 'official federal wage freeze.' CDC officials should be focused on preventing diseases rather than pumping up their salaries."
However, the CDC doctors' average salaries don't come near to matching doctors in the private sector. According to the Medscape Physician Compensation Report, orthopedic doctors earn around $413,000 annually, and doctors specializing in HIV/ID make about $174,000 annually.
At the CDC, Dr. Sherif Zaki, chief of the infectious disease pathology branch, earned the highest salary, $260,560. He has worked with the CDC's response to outbreaks of Ebola in several African nations from 1995 to 2002, Leptospirosis in Nicaragua in 1996, Nipah virus encephalitis in Malaysia and Singapore in 2000, and West Nile virus in the United States in 2000 and 2002.
Pay varies between the CDC's various sites. The highest federal payout, except for in Atlanta, went to the National Center for Health Statistics in Hyattsville, Md., with a federal payout of $304 million in wages from 2007 to 2013 and $640,000 in bonuses, federal records show.
Other sites in Cincinnati; Chamblee, Ga.; Bruceton, Pa.; and Morgantown, W. Va., earned more than $100 million from 2007 to 2013 and collectively earned $1.8 million in bonuses, The Times reports.