FCC Chairman Ajit Pai was on Capitol Hill on Thursday, appearing at a hearing on the Commission’s fiscal year 2019 budget request convened by the House Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government Committee on Appropriations in the lower body of Congress.
A spending level was specifically spelled out by Pai, and it is “derived from regulatory fees for regular FCC operations.” An auction spending cap was also disclosed.
The Commission is requesting a spending level of $333,118,000, and an auction spending cap of $112,734,000.
Pai calls this a “fiscally responsible request” that provides the FCC “with the resources necessary to advance its critical strategic goals: closing the digital divide; promoting innovation; protecting consumers and public safety; and reforming the FCC’s processes.”
The Commission received an appropriation of $322,035,000 for FY 2018, a dollar amount reflecting an approximately 5% reduction of the FCC’s FY 2017 appropriation, minus the directed funding for a headquarters relocation from the Portals to a trendy area due north of Union Station.
“To put our budget in perspective, in real, inflation-adjusted terms, the FCC’s appropriation has declined by over 17% since FY 2009,” Pai explained.
As such, he added, “These reductions have required the Commission to operate more efficiently. Since I became Chairman in January 2017, we have done just that, initiating management improvements to cut costs and accomplishing more with less money.”
For example, the Commission “saved a significant amount of money by closing a warehouse where we processed our mail, and instead contracting with a vendor that performs this task for many government agencies.”
There’s also a reduction in workforce in fiscal 2018 to comply with federal government reform legislation passed by Congress.
“By the end of FY 2018, we project that the Commission’s full-time equivalent (FTE) count will have declined over 10% in two years,” Pai said. “In light of this, our FY 2019 budget request proposes to freeze our FTE count rather than reduce it again—because further reductions in staffing would compromise the Commission’s ability to accomplish its mission.”
The need to stabilize our FTE count is “especially important,” he added, “given the many additional responsibilities Congress assigned the FCC in the Fiscal Year 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act (Omnibus).”
The FCC-related sections of the Omnibus and accompanying Explanatory Statement require the Commission to revise its application and regulatory fee schedules, amend its Caller ID spoofing rules, complete a proceeding on 911 call location accuracy, use the Connect2Health tool to create a map that overlays opioid drug abuse with the degree of broadband access in an area, and coordinate with NTIA in its use of $7.5 million in infrastructure funds for broadband mapping.
IT investments also the main reason why Pai is requesting a slight bump up in appropriations for the FCC’s regular operations in FY 2019.
With the auction funds the FCC is requesting, the FCC “will also continue the critical work of facilitating the post-Incentive Auction repack,” he added.
In closing, Pai said, “We do not have an easy mission, and sometimes we will disagree on the methods for seeing it through. But I’m proud of the staff at the Commission for its commitment to serving the American people and promoting the public interest.”