AID Forced to Fire Nearly 1,000 Staff: Agency's Budget Cut by Congress

Article excerpt

The head of the demoralized Agency for International Development, facing deep congressional budget cuts, told employees at a general meeting yesterday that nearly 1,000 staffers are to be fired beginning in June.

Those who remain face eviction in January when AID must turn over its headquarters in the east wing of the State Department building for renovation and subsequent State Department use.

An amendment by Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, blocks AID from moving into planned new offices at the Ronald Reagan federal office building nearing completion along Constitution Avenue.

Administrator Brian Atwood said in an interview that AID has been forced to abandon efforts to control new strains of malaria and other new diseases; it also is cutting back on agricultural research.

Mr. Atwood said he would tell of AID staffers at a closed meeting yesterday afternoon that about 10 percent of the agency's 9,000 employees would be let go in order to cope with the reduced budgets.

About 700 of the cuts will be consultants and foreigners.

A Senate Republican source said that AID is "bloated" and personnel cuts will not be noticed.

"If they cut 1,000 positions I don't think U.S. foreign policy will suffer," said the source.

About 2,000 staff positions have been eliminated in the past three years through attrition.

"It's affecting morale," Mr. Atwood said. "I've tried to protect the capacity of the United States" to carry out foreign assistance.

"We felt last year we could do more with less," he said. "Now we have to admit the cuts are so severe we are doing less with less.

"We are not able to carry out our foreign policy interests."

AID narrowly fought off efforts by Mr. Helms to abolish the 35-year-old agency as well as the U.S. Information Agency and and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.

But cuts of 25 percent during the budget impasse, and further cuts under the January appropriation, have taken their toll.

"We're not dead," said Mr. Atwood. "We're very much alive. We haven't lost our leadership capacity.

"We need to retain a core capacity to influence the World Bank, Europe and Japan," he said. …