FSIS Workforce: Expansion Of Public Health Service Commissioned Corps Program
In March 2003, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) which allows for the detailing of expanded numbers of PHS Commissioned Corps Officers to FSIS. These officers will help to enhance the agency's capacity to protect the public health by ensuring the safety of meat, poultry and egg products. They will assist in responding to foodborne disease outbreaks and in investigating food security threats. Emphasis will also be placed on prevention measures to reduce the incidence of preventable foodborne illness.
The mission of the PHS Commissioned Corps is to provide highly-trained and mobile health professionals who carry out programs to protect, promote, and advance the health and safety of the Nation. This is achieved by understanding and preventing disease and injury, assuring safe and effective drugs and medical devices and delivering health services to Federal beneficiaries, such as veterans, American Indians and Alaska Natives. Additionally, PHS furnishes health expertise in times of war or other national or international emergencies.
The FSIS mission is to ensure that meat, poultry and egg products are safe, wholesome and correctly labeled. In order to improve its public health focus, FSIS is implementing a prevention-oriented inspection system based on science and is re-deploying its resources to better protect the public from foodborne disease and potential terrorism threats. As part of this system, FSIS is seeking to improve the qualifications of its workforce by hiring individuals with more extensive scientific backgrounds. The MOA is one way FSIS is improving the quality if its workforce.
A small number of PHS Commissioned Corps Officers have been detailed to FSIS since January 1998. The MOA provided FSIS the ability to employ USPHS officers in various positions throughout the organization.
Role of the Commissioned Corps Officers
The agreement allows for approximately 20 or more officers to be assigned agency-wide into specialized areas where there is a greater demand for scientific knowledge and judgment.
PHS Officers, a core of highly-trained health experts with diverse backgrounds and experience, will support FSIS mission areas. Flexible deployment rules allow the Officers to instantly respond to emergencies and shifting priorities within the agency. The Officers will serve in various capacities across the agency in specific areas where there is a demand for scientific knowledge and judgment. The Officers include veterinarians, scientists, dietitians, environmental health officers, physicians and nurses. They will work in offices such as: The Office of Data Integration and Food Protection, which coordinates the agency's Homeland Security activities; the Office of Field Operations, which provides in-plant veterinarians and other inspectors; and the Office of Public Health and Science, which provides medical, epidemiological and scientific support to the Agency.