FCC Announces Plan to Trim Jobs, Close Field Offices

Article excerpt

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed E. Hundt proposed budget cuts Thursday that would lay off roughly 180 employees and close a dozen regional and field offices within the next year.

One of the FCC's five commissioners said he opposed the plan, which is a response to funding cuts expected from Congress. If adopted, it would mark the largest payroll cut in the 61-year history of the agency.

"I think it's time to smell the coffee," Hundt said. "We've got to deal with reality here, which is that Congress wants us to become smaller."

But Hundt also repeated his longtime view that more people eventually will be needed to oversee changes in the nation's communications regulations, regardless of whether a major overhaul of the nation's telecommunications laws becomes law.

Differing versions of that legislation have passed both houses of Congress; Hundt said as many as 80 new responsibilities for the commission could result.

The House has voted to freeze FCC spending at $185 million for its next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. The Senate has yet to act on the FCC's spending level. President Bill Clinton's administration and the FCC requested $225 million.

Hundt set a new, lower target of 2,050 full-time positions for the agency by next year, down from today's maximum of 2,271 positions. To achieve that, the agency will offer buyouts and early retirements to about 130 employees. …