FILE - This undated file photo provided by the University of Maryland School of Medicine in March 2018 shows Dr. Robert Redfield Jr. The government is paying Redfield $375,000 a year to run the Atlanta-based CDC, U.S. officials confirmed in April 2018, nearly twice what his predecessor made and far more than other recent past directors. On Monday, April 30, 2018, HHS officials said Redfield had asked for a pay reduction because the topic had become a distraction.(Tracey Brown/University of Maryland School of Medicine via AP, File)

CDC chief asks for, and gets, cut to his record $375K pay

April 30, 2018 - 3:37 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — The new head of the top U.S. public health agency has asked for — and will receive — a cut to his record-setting pay, federal officials said Monday.

Dr. Robert Redfield Jr.'s new salary was not revealed.

The 66-year-old HIV researcher, who was picked in March to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had been set to earn $375,000 a year.

That sum was at least $150,000 more than any previous CDC director had received. It also was well above the compensation of other top federal health officials — including Redfield's boss, Secretary Alex Azar of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

After The Associated Press reported last week that Redfield was making almost twice his predecessor, a U.S. senator opposed to his appointment wrote a letter to Azar asking why he was earning so much.

On Monday, HHS officials said Redfield has asked for a pay reduction because the topic had become a distraction. They said his compensation will be adjusted accordingly, but did not answer questions about what the new sum is or when it will be announced.

Redfield has not been doing media interviews since taking the CDC job, and he didn't immediately comment on the pay cut.

A top HIV researcher, Redfield had no experience working in public health or managing a public health agency.

By private industry standards, Redfield's CDC salary was modest for someone with his resume, and it was a significant pay cut from what he was making in his previous job at the University of Maryland.

But $375,000 was exceptionally high for the field of government public health, and it was high compared with other high-level federal officials.

Redfield is being paid under a salary program called Title 42, which was established to attract health scientists with rare and critical skills to government work.

Azar, the head of the National Institutes of Health and the head of the Food and Drug Administration aren't paid under Title 42 and make less than Redfield.

In a statement last week, an HHS spokeswoman defended Redfield's pay.

"The recruitment of Dr. Robert Redfield was a rare opportunity to hire one of the world's leading virologists," said the spokeswoman, Caitlin Oakley. "Dr. Redfield has over 30 years of experience as a groundbreaking scientist, academic researcher, and clinician who has been a global leader in the fight against one of the most devastating infectious diseases of our time — HIV/AIDS."

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, wrote an April 26 letter to Azar questioning the salary.

"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," she wrote, citing the AP's reporting.

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The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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