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Trump administration considers ordering regular mandatory reviews of public health officials

The Trump administration is reportedly considering imposing regular performance reviews on federal health officials in the waning days of President Trump’s term in office.

The move, which would certainly rankle some of he president’s most prominent critics regarding his pandemic response, was first reported by Politico, based on the word of three anonymous senior health officials within the administration.

According to the news outlet, the regulation could be implemented within days by the Department of Health and Human Services and would enact mandatory job reviews every five years for government scientists who serve as directors of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and various other health agencies.

The news outlet added that the mandatory reviews could lead to “renewal — or reassignment.”

Critics reportedly slammed the move, arguing it would unnecessarily infuse politics into federal health agencies.

“It’s been a step-by-step escalation in retaliation by HHS against career scientists throughout the pandemic,” they said. “It’s a clear abuse of power by [HHS Secretary Alex Azar].”

But proponents within the administration shot back, telling Politico it’s just good government policy.

“This is intended to be a good governance action,” the senior administration official said. “Congress did this through the 21st Century Cures Act with [National Institutes of Health]. I think NIH was largely supportive because it would increase diversity or opportunity for certain positions at the agency.”

It’s worth noting that perhaps the president’s most prominent adversary within public health ranks — Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease — is already subject to such reviews. In 2016, Congress passed legislation enacting five-year mandatory reviews for center directors at the NIH, of which the NIAID is a part.

“Most Americans have performance reviews every year, Congress faces election every two years, and presidents every four, requesting performance reviews of agency leaders twice a decade is common sense management,” HHS chief of staff Brian Harrison said in a statement.

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