C.D.C. Director’s Salary Is Reduced to $209,700 From $375,000

WASHINGTON — The new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is taking a pay cut after Senate Democrats and watchdog groups criticized the use of an exemption to pay him nearly double the rate of his predecessors.

Dr. Robert R. Redfield assumed the top post in March at a salary of $375,000 per year, far more than the heads of many other federal agencies, and much more than his predecessors Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald ($193,700), Dr. Thomas Frieden ($209,700), and Dr. Julie Gerberding ($207,000).

The unusually high rate was granted under a provision known as Title 42, which permits the Department of Health and Human Services (and the Environmental Protection Agency) to pay more than the approved government rate if the candidate fills a specific scientific need that cannot otherwise be met.

Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, questioned the use of the exemption in this case, suggesting last month that it might not have been appropriate. She asked the health and human services secretary, Alex M. Azar II, who oversees the C.D.C., to describe the “extensive and exhaustive effort” that was supposed to be made to find a director before hiring Dr. Redfield at the unusually high salary.

The fallout was swift. A few days after news reports about the criticism, the Health and Human Services Department indicated that Dr. Redfield was seeking to have his salary reduced.

Caitlin B. Oakley, a spokeswoman for the department, said on Tuesday that Dr. Redfield had agreed to a lower salary of $209,700.

“Dr. Redfield did not want his compensation to become a distraction from the important work of the C.D.C. and asked that his salary be reduced,” Ms. Oakley said. “Dr. Redfield is being paid in accordance with the formula used to pay the prior three C.D.C. directors.”

Ms. Oakley repeated the department’s rationale for recruiting Dr. Redfield under Title 42, calling it a rare opportunity to hire one of the world’s leading virologists. Dr. Redfield was a longtime H.I.V./AIDS researcher at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a founder of its Institute of Human Virology.

Dr. Redfield became the director after Dr. Fitzgerald resigned under fire in January, because of a series of potential conflicts of interest arising from financial investments she and her husband had made.

Senator Murray was not available for comment.