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      Golden Hammer: Agencies stock up on scientists with superpay

      The normal federal worker can't earn a salary of more than $130,000 a year under the civil service system, but Uncle Sam has been hiring an increasing number of scientists, medical researchers and doctors at salaries double that amount under a special program to attract better private-sector talent.

      The sudden salary splurge has federal watchdogs alarmed that a program that was supposed to be reserved for rare circumstances is being abused to hire thousands of people at salaries that can near the earnings of the president of the United States.

      The Government Accountability Office, the auditing arm of Congress, has said it is concerned that the Department of Health and Human Services has a "lack of complete data and guidance" to govern the increased hiring of high-dollar researchers. Such workers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rose by 81 percent from 2006 to 2010, the GAO noted.

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