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HHS Limits Employee Travel

While touting its support for large increases in research funds for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Bush administration engaged in a backhanded slap to scientists in all divisions of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In mid-March, Ed Sontag, deputy chief of staff for operations in HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson's office, issued a memo to all HHS divisional staff heads requiring that they "must clear all domestic travel" with his office. International travel for certai

Myrna Watanabe
While touting its support for large increases in research funds for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Bush administration engaged in a backhanded slap to scientists in all divisions of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In mid-March, Ed Sontag, deputy chief of staff for operations in HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson's office, issued a memo to all HHS divisional staff heads requiring that they "must clear all domestic travel" with his office. International travel for certain staff members also needed approval. On May 25, Sontag's office sent a clarification, indicating that travel by groups of "five or more employees having the same purpose for travel," regardless of cost, must be approved by his office.

Although these restrictions--including additional restrictions on taking annual leave in conjunction with travel--went nearly unnoticed for several months, by June, members of scientific societies were up in arms, realizing that the...

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