The government will lower the $375,000 salary of the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, after reports that he was being paid considerably more than previous directors, the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed on Monday, though it declined to say what his new pay will be.
Dr. Redfield, who became the C.D.C. director in March, had been given the higher salary under a provision called Title 42. It was created by Congress to allow federal agencies to offer compensation that is competitive with the private sector in order to attract top-notch scientists with expertise that the departments would not otherwise have. News reports of his earnings sparked complaints from Senate Democrats and watchdog groups.
“Dr. Redfield has expressed to Secretary Azar that he does not wish to have his compensation become a distraction for the important work of the C.D.C.,” an H.H.S. spokeswoman, who declined to be named, wrote in an emailed response to questions from The New York Times. “Therefore, consistent with Dr. Redfield’s request to the Secretary, Dr. Redfield’s compensation will be adjusted accordingly.”
Title 42 was not used for Dr. Redfield’s predecessor, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, an obstetrician-gynecologist, who was paid $197,300 a year until she resigned in January, or for her predecessor, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, an infectious disease specialist and the former health commissioner of New York City, whose salary was $219,700.
Dr. Redfield, an H.I.V./AIDS researcher at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and co-founder of its Institute of Human Virology, was also being paid more than his boss, Alex M. Azar II, the H.H.S. secretary; Dr. Scott Gottlieb, head of the Food and Drug Administration; and Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.
Each of those political appointees is paid less than $200,000 a year, and Dr. Gottlieb and Mr. Azar took much larger pay cuts in their government jobs than did Dr. Redfield, who reported $757,100 in salary and bonuses from the University of Maryland Department of Medicine for 2017 through mid-March of 2018.
“The recruitment of Dr. Robert Redfield was a rare opportunity to hire one of the world’s leading virologists,” Caitlin Oakley, an H.H.S. spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement. “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. The selection of Dr. Redfield was the right choice at the right time for the right purpose. Dr. Redfield is someone who understands this work from all of these perspectives and has firsthand knowledge of what researchers and practitioners need to keep the American people safe at home and abroad.”
After Dr. Redfield’s salary was reported by news organizations, Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington state, wrote to Mr. Azar questioning Dr. Redfield’s salary and the use of the Title 42 provision to compensate him so highly. She asked whether the agency made an “extensive and exhaustive” effort to find a director before deciding to pay Dr. Redfield under the special exemption. And she also asked for documentation of those search and recruitment efforts, including the descriptions of the job as a “scientific position.”