With a vow to slash the cost of government without resorting to "a mean spirit or a meat ax," President Clinton on Monday announced another set of spending cuts in federal agencies.
Clinton said that the latest reductions will save $13.1 billion and eliminate nearly 5,000 federal jobs over the next five years at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Small Business Administration, the Interior Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The savings would be used to help pay for Clinton's $60-billion middle-class tax cut, which he announced in December to counter much larger Republican tax-reduction proposals.
Clinton insisted that his streamlining efforts are not only more realistic than those of his GOP rivals but that they are more "humane and decent."
He noted that his government-cutting plans would preserve summer jobs programs, subsidized school lunches and the national service corps, all targets of Republican budget-cutters on Capitol Hill.
Clinton announced the economy moves at a ceremony during which he accepted a mock-up of a check for $7.7 billion, representing the proceeds of a Federal Communications Commission auction of airwaves for cellular phone service.
The auction took place in December and the revenue already has been accounted for in the current budget.
The Clinton Administration was the first to propose that airwaves for wireless communications be auctioned to the highest bidder rather than given away. The innovation has already yielded nearly $9 billion and is expected to generate billions of dollars more in coming years.
The newest budget cuts will be deepest at NASA, which will lose $8 billion and 2,000 jobs over the next five years, representing roughly a 10% cut in budget and personnel over that period.
NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin said Monday that the programs to be terminated and the offices to be closed are obsolete and have no bearing on the space agency's core missions.
"The problem we have is we have an infrastructure that's 35 years old," Goldin said at a White House briefing. "It's got to change and we've got to be ready for the 21st Century."
Goldin was vague about the specific cuts that would yield the $8 billion in savings, saying they would be identified by studies completed in several months. Some NASA operations would be sold or transferred to private industry or universities, he said.
Goldin estimated that the latest round of budget reductions would mean a loss of about 10,000 jobs by private contractors who do the bulk of NASA's design, engineering and assembly work.
At Interior, officials are planning to turn over to states and Native American tribes the job of collecting oil and mineral royalties on publicly owned land. Spinning off that function would save an estimated $69 million and 700 jobs over the next five years.
The agency also plans to close the Office of Territorial and International Affairs, a relic of America's brief tenure as a colonial power. The office oversees relations with a number of Pacific islands that became U.S. territories under a United Nations mandate after World War II, including Palau, the Marshall Islands and the Mariana Islands.
The savings from closing the office would total $5 million over five years.
"For some reason lost in history, the secretary of the Interior became the colonial overlord of the Pacific," said Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. "Those Pacific territories are now largely gone--on the road to commonwealth status, independence, a variety of other tracks. And looking about, it became clear to me that my days as the 'colonial secretary' were very limited and that has led to a proposal to abolish that function."
Interior also plans to turn over to Maryland and Virginia several scenic parkways now maintained at federal expense--the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, the George Washington and Clara Barton Parkways and the Suitland Parkway. The federal government will contribute to their maintenance over the next three years.
Overall, Interior would contribute $3.8 billion in savings and 2,000 in job cuts over the next five years.
The Small Business Administration, by making banks and borrowers pick up the cost of processing loans while closing a number of regional offices, would contribute $1.2 billion and 500 jobs. FEMA would reduce its payroll by 305 and use state employees and volunteer workers to pick up the slack, saving $100 million.
* WELFARE ENTITLEMENT: A key senator predicts that welfare will lose its status as a guaranteed entitlement. A19