FCC Chief Plans Agency Cuts, Says Public Won’t be Hurt
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The federal agency with the most control over how Americans get their telephone and television services would lose about 10 percent of its positions under a plan unveiled Thursday by the agency’s chief.
Public safety and enforcement in ``no way would be affected negatively by this plan,″ said Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed Hundt.
Hundt’s plan responds to the likelihood that Congress will freeze the commission’s budget. The House has agreed to provide the FCC with $185 million in fiscal year 1996, which begins Oct. 1. The Senate has not yet acted.
The planned cuts come as Congress is on the verge of greatly expanding the FCC’s regulatory duties through a historic overhaul of the nation’s telecommunications laws.
Under Hundt’s plan, which is opposed by FCC Commissioner James Quello, the FCC would reduce its maximum work force _ now authorized at 2,271 positions _ to 2,050 positions during the next year.
The FCC will do this by buying out or terminating about 180 current employees and by not hiring people to fill about 40 slots that are now open, Hundt said.
This will happen within the next 10 to 12 months, Hundt said. It will be the first time in the agency’s 61 years that employees would be terminated or bought out, Hundt said. During budget cuts through the 1980s, the FCC constrained costs by freezing employment.
The savings from the work force reduction would be used to install technology to make the agency run more efficiently.
Such technology would permit the FCC by next summer to close down all nine FCC offices that monitor interference and catch airwaves pirates _ people who are using the airwaves but have not been authorized to do so. The offices are in Vero Beach, Fla., Belfast, Maine, Allegan, Mich., Douglas, Ariz., Livermore, Calif., Ferndale, Wash., Grand Island, Neb., Kingsville, Texas, and Powder Springs, Ga.
Nine of 25 field offices also would be closed. Two people, however, in each location would be retained for enforcement activities, but other employees, mainly those in public relations, would be eliminated. These closings would have to be approved by Congress. The office to be closed are in Buffalo, N.Y., Miami, St. Paul, Minn., Portland, Ore., Houston, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Anchorage, Alaska, and Honolulu.
Hundt also plans to cut the staff responsible for overseeing cable television rates by 15 percent. Those 33 positions, however, would be moved to an area whose business is ever growing _ regulation of telephone services.