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FCC Chair Tells Congress His Agency Has Been Thrifty

Genachowski points to cutbacks in service contracts, travel, equipment

Like other businesses these days, the FCC, it says, is learning to do more with less.

In testimony before a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, Chairman Julius Genachowski justified the agency’s $354.2 million FY 2012 budget request.

As the communications industry has grown in size and complexity, the FCC has remained relatively small and focused, according to the chairman.

The budget request, he said, reflects a fiscally responsible effort to continue necessary programs without undercutting the commission’s core missions.

“The FCC’s staff has worked hard to develop lean and flexible mechanisms and methodologies that make use of the resources that we already have first — before considering alternatives that might require additional financial resources,” stated Genachowski in prepared testimony.

“The FCC understands well that everyone from the consumer increasingly using communications devices to the smallest amateur ham operator to the largest ISP provider wants an efficient, well-tuned agency focusing on our statutory mission.”

He cited a streamlined merger review process that’s more efficient, and said the staff is close to finishing an update of the agency’s website, “which had grown dramatically out of date.”

The agency is also hiring more technical personnel, such as engineers, technologists, economists and econometricians with the skills to tackle the challenges of the digital age, he told the committee.

The commission has saved money, to the tune of more than $2 million, across its IT, administrative, financial and other service contracts by consolidating and streamlining those services. The FCC also reduced the number of hard copies of publications delivered to the commission, netting $50,000 in savings, according to the chairman. It saved “tens of thousands of dollars” on equipment, supplies, travel and printing costs in the past year.

Some $5.7 million of the commission’s 2012 budget is earmarked for IT initiatives, including costs associated with consolidating how the agency licenses the companies it regulates.

Finally, the commission plans to devote $1 million to new entrant studies of media ownership. Previous funding has been devoted to studies of local media markets.

FCC Budgets for an Increase” (Feb. 2011)

— Leslie Stimson