The US House Committee on Energy and Commerce has given the Federal Communications Commission a May 7 deadline to produce documents related to FCC Enforcement Bureau proposals to close two-thirds of its field offices and eliminate nearly one-half of its staff of field agents. In an April 23 letter, Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) told FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler that his panel wants the Commission to provide all documents relating to the proposed closures.
“[Y]our proposal to shutter 16 of the Commission’s 24 field offices raises significant challenges and concerns,” Upton said. “The Commission has represented to Congress and the American people that it will ‘preserve the integrity of public safety communications infrastructure by taking action on 99 percent of complaints of interference to public safety communications within 1 day,’ yet your proposal to reduce the geographic footprint of the Commission appears to ignore the impact this might have on the Commission’s public interest goal.” Upton said the Commission has offered little information to support its proposals. “Indeed, our concerns have only been heightened by the Commission’s failure to provide all the information requested by the Committee,” he wrote.
The field office and personnel layoff proposals were outlined in a March 10 internal memorandum from Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc and FCC Managing Director Jon Wilkins to EB field staff. The memo, obtained by ARRL and others, cited the need to take “a fresh look” at the Bureau’s 20-year-old operating model in light of technology changes and tighter budgets.
During March hearings of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology — chaired by Rep Greg Walden, W7EQI (R-OR) — on the FCC’s FY 2015 budget request, Committee members sought more information from Wilkins and Wheeler on the basis of the proposals to close field offices. Upton said that his Committee has, to date, received just the two-page March 10 memorandum and a 35-page PowerPoint presentation that purports to outline the consultants’ report.
ARRL leadership met with Enforcement Bureau staff and with Capitol Hill lawmakers in March to express its own concerns with the proposals in light of seemingly lax enforcement of the Amateur Service rules. ARRL CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ, also addressed the FCC’s field office closure proposals in his “It Seems to Us” editorial in the May 2015 issue of QST. “Given everything that’s on [the Enforcement Bureau’s] plate — of which Amateur Radio is just a small part — reducing the number of field agents from 63 to 33 and the number of field offices from 24 to 8 hardly sounds like progress,” Sumner wrote.
In his April 23 letter, Upton told Wheeler that his panel wants the Commission to provide all documents, “including all drafts, memos, e-mails, analyses, PowerPoint slides, interim reports, and the final report,” produced by outside consultants and related to the proposed field office closures. The committee also wants all documents “including all internal communications and internal analyses” related to the Enforcement Bureau’s and Office of Managing Director’s joint recommendation to the full Commission to close the field offices.