The ’07 budget figures represent about a 4% increase over the FCC’s actual budget for fiscal year 2006 (which ends in the fall), though it is less than what was initially requested for FY ’06.
The agency’s news release notes that some of its request (just over $1 million) will be designated toward “replac[ing] Mobile Digital Direction Finding (MDDF) vehicles that are used to support public safety entities (e.g., emergency responders, police, fire departments) in the resolution of harmful interference to their communications systems.”
According to the budget proposal itself (see the document linked as “FY 2007 Performance Budget”), the FCC maintains a fleet of 76 MDDF vehicles.
The…MDDF vehicle consists of the vehicle itself (a sport utility vehicle (SUV) with sufficient space and storage capabilities) and the specialized technical equipment. Because of the specialized nature of the mission and the equipment, the FCC installs the technical equipment (e.g., a computerized spectrum analysis system that includes antennas, a receiver, display screens, controls) at an FCC facility.
The FCC’s current fleet of vehicles has two main problems. First, because the FCC did not maintain a lifecycle replacement program, many vehicles have deteriorated due to wear and tear from the regular use. Twenty-eight vehicles, or 36% of the FCC’s MDDF fleet, are more than seven years old and eleven vehicles, or approximately 15% of the FCC’s MDDF fleet, are more than ten years old. As a result, the FCC is incurring increased maintenance costs associated with the MDDF vehicles. Second, many vehicles contain older, less-effective monitoring equipment.
There are no proposed staff increases in the Enforcement Bureau, which presently houses 333 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions. Of these, less than one-third are dedicated to performing duties related to “Public Safety/Homeland Security,” under which the task of unlicensed broadcast enforcement falls. 12% of the agency’s total budget – or about $35 million – is devoted to the “public safety” mission across bureaus and offices.
In fact, the only areas of the agency where increased staffing is requested are the Wireline Competition Bureau, Office of Inspector General, and Office of Managing Director. Interestingly, the OIG seeks the largest personnel increase, from 14 to 26 FTEs.
The FCC also seeks an increase in travel funds, although it claims to do so “to help reduce the reliance on outside funding sources for travel costs,” which I believe refers to the once-rampant practice of Commissioners and staff taking junkets paid for by the industries they regulate.