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TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Misplaced priorities at CDC headquarters

If there is an outbreak of anthrax, who gets called?

If a case of mad cow disease shows up, who takes the calls?

If there is an epidemic of flu, which experts get contacted?

And what about the break out of E. coli in fresh spinach last week? Who answered the phones?

The CDC, of course, officially known as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based in Atlanta.

But come bonus pay time, it's not the scientists and medical people getting the extra money for doing a good job in a time of war on terrorism. It's the bean counters and managers!

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution uncovered what appears to be more wasteful spending in the name of keeping America safe. The CDC has about 9,000 employees and about half of them are members of the scientific staff. Yet the accountants, managers and computer technicians are raking in thousands of dollars in efficiency bonuses.

The CDC spends about $865 million on salaries and benefits annually. Last year, it paid out about $15 million in awards.

But the CDC's argument is weak about why the people charged with doing the research on deadly viruses and ways to control them don't get an equal share of incentive money.

One might think that the work of entomologists, epidemiologists, biologists, physicians, veterinarians, nurses and other workers would be more highly valued when it comes to bonuses.

The explanations seem rather lame, especially in time of war when the government fears dirty bombs and chemical and biological agents.

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