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Report on FCC Reform
Mary Beth Richards
Special Counsel to the Chairman
September 13, 2001

Good morning. It is a pleasure being here to report on the progress to date implementing the agency’s reform business plan.

In March, the Chairman first testified on his desire to make the FCC, as an institution, efficient, effective, and responsive.

The Chairman testified about a business plan built along four dimensions:

(1) a clear substantive policy vision;
(2) a pointed emphasis on management;
(3) an extensive training and development program; and
(4) organizational restructuring.

In May, we invited staff and the public to provide comment on the business plan and its goals. Many people responded to that request. Since then, I have met with, or have received correspondence from, over 150 people inside and outside the Commission. They applauded the goals of the plan and provided many comments and suggestions designed to help fulfill those goals.

The suggestions broke down generally along the following lines:

I am pleased to report that staff throughout the agency has been busy implementing the reform initiatives and have made great strides in a number of areas.

The first prong of the business plan deals with a clear substantive policy vision. The Commission’s substantive work involved in migrating to a digital broadband future is the cornerstone of the agency’s day-to-day operations. I will report on only a few of the policy-related projects taking place in the reform area. Suggestions here involved getting rid of out of date regulations and reconciling the existing rules to the realities of the current market place.

In May, Chairman Powell recommended that Congress increase the forfeiture level imposed on common carriers violating local competition provisions of the Act from the current statutory limit of $1.2 million per violation to at least $10 million per violation.

For the last several months, OGC’s transaction team has led an agency-wide review of the Commission’s procedures for assignment and transfer of control applications. There are a number of variations across bureau lines. The team, working with bureau liaisons, will make recommendations for next steps.

As part of the budget process, each agency must have a strategic framework for the agency’s goals, objectives, strategies and performance measures. We will be revising our strategic plan over the next year for submission with our budget next fall.

The second prong of the plan emphasizes strong management. Effective management is vital. Suggestions in this area included more timely decision making and a robust use of electronic access. There are a number of things to report here.

Almost everyone suggested we act on old filings and actions. While we have made strides in the backlog reduction area, there are still pockets of some pretty old filings. We have done an inventory of pending actions throughout the Commission, with plans to eliminate the backlogs.

A related project deals with uniform productivity standards. The agency receives lots of different applications and filings from the public. Each of the bureaus and offices has set goals for processing the filings within a certain amount of time. These goals vary widely, and range from days to over a year. We currently have goals for approximately 360 different receipts. We are working to reduce the processing time for each filing and to make the goals more uniform across all bureaus, where possible.

The Commission has circulated rules and procedures to improve the deliberative process. The rules would adopt clear and transparent procedures to speed decision making.

With regard to enhancing electronic access so that someone in Connecticut can get information as easily as someone on Connecticut Avenue, one project involves the redesign on the Commission’s web site, After months of work, with input from people inside and outside the agency, earlier this summer, the Office of Media Relations unveiled a completely redesigned web site. It uses a common template so that information is easier to find. The final changes should be in place by the end of this month. Monday’s Washington Post cited a Brown University study that ranked the FCC among the highest of Federal sites.

Next, we have begun an extensive multi-year project to utilize technology better so as to improve productivity. We will be looking at all the agency’s processes and information technology systems. The focus of the project is to identify where changes can be made in the information technology program that would result in high payoffs in terms of improved productivity, better public service, and faster decisions. This is something in which each of the bureaus will participate.

A companion initiative is a licensing system integration project. The goal here is to simplify and consolidate the Commission’s licensing systems. I have heard numerous complaints about how each licensing system asks for different information or similar information in a slightly different format. This project will address those concerns. I like to think of this as the virtual licensing bureau where, to the users outside the agency, it is one omnibus licensing system, but it allows the system’s owners inside the Commission to tailor the systems to their own needs. It is a rather massive long-term undertaking as we have over two dozen different major systems today.

The third prong of the business plan involves training, and the advancement of our technical and economic expertise. There was universal approval for this component of the plan. We are developing a comprehensive employee training program to ensure that employees have the training and skill to carry out the public’s business efficiently and effectively. This program, called the FCC University, has begun with zeal. We have had a ten-fold increase in our training program. In the past several months, hundreds of employees have taken one or more training classes, including in-house tutorials, industry tutorials, technical training for non-technical staff, economics training, supervisory training, writing classes, computer classes, and mediation training. We are also in the process of creating employee development teams representing the major job groups to determine how best to fulfill our unmet career development needs. Part of the FCC University initiative is a Distinguished Speakers Program. We will be launching this program in October, when the kick-off speaker will be John Chambers, CEO of Cisco.

A vital component of the reform plan is to improve the agency’s technical and economic expertise. Advances in technology are driving the communications revolution. As the expert agency, the Commission must have a strong fluency in the language of technology. Over the last six years, our engineering staff has decreased by more than 20 percent. Within the next four years, 40 percent of our engineering staff will be eligible to retire. We have let our technical equipment and infrastructure languish.

To address these concerns, the Commission has developed an agency-wide "Excellence in Engineering" program. Thanks to OET and OMD, among others, I am most proud to report on the great progress made in the four months since Chairman Powell announced the EIE initiative:

In addition to developing our technical expertise, we are putting a similar emphasis on economics and market analysis. The agency’s new Chief Economist has proposed an Excellence in Economic Analysis Program to improve the economic analysis in the agency’s decision making process. The program would include training for non-economists on the principles of economic analysis and the training of economists in the areas of engineering and legal analysis. It would also provide advanced economic training, increase access to economic research material, and enhance our hiring of economists. Additionally, the program would include collaboration among economists throughout the agency and workshops to discuss emerging issues before the Commission.

The final prong of the business plan deals with looking at the organizational structure of the agency to see whether it is right for the times. Organizational change is difficult. It takes time and requires hard choices. Communications policy has been written in carefully confined buckets premised on certain types of technology. The FCC’s organizational structure largely mirrors that premise. But the industry has changed and so has our workload. While it is not timely to abandon those technology-based buckets, it is timely to move forward with some remodeling of the agency.

These slides show our current office and bureau structure.

In determining what restructuring was necessary at this time, we were guided by the following principles –

This phase focuses on the bureaus. The changes would result in an enhanced policy, licensing, economic analysis and technical component in each of the bureaus. Each bureau will have an industry analysis division and engineering division, or will have a chief economist and chief engineer, or both. The new bureau and division names used here are working titles and may be changed as we work through the specifics over the next couple of months.

The Media Bureau. This new bureau will handle video news and entertainment policy and licensing functions and will recognize workload changes, especially in the cable area. Included in the new bureau would be EEO, political programming, AM, FM, LPFM, TV, LPTV, cable policy and DBS post-licensing policy. Within the Media Bureau would be a separate Office of Broadcast License Policy with a chief and would be responsible for the licensing function of the bureau. Certain enforcement-related functions from the Cable Services Bureau would be transferred to the Enforcement Bureau. Certain consumer information related functions from the Cable Services Bureau would be transferred to the Consumer Information Bureau. Also some licensing functions, including MMDS, would be transferred to the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. The Media Bureau would have a Policy Division, Engineering Division, and Industry Analysis Division. In addition to the Office of Broadcast License Policy, under which would be the Audio Division and Video Division.

The Wireline Competition Bureau. We would consolidate functions within the Common Carrier Bureau and increase the technical and economic analysis emphasis within the bureau. The audit and related enforcement functions would be transferred to the Enforcement Bureau. The results would be a newly named Wireline Competition Bureau to better reflect the mission of the bureau. WCB would have four divisions: Competition Policy, Pricing Policy, Fund Policy and Administration, and Industry Analysis and Technology. The goals of the reorganization are to:

The International Bureau. We would consolidate like functions within the International Bureau to recognize changes in workload and to achieve greater efficiencies. IB would have a Policy Division, Satellite Division, and Strategic Analysis and Negotiations Division. The goals of the reorganization are to:

The Bureau of Consumer Information and Intergovernmental Affairs. We would restructure CIB to align like functions more closely and to enhance its policy role in decision making and increase its intergovernmental partnership role with regard to the federal, state, local governments and Tribal nations. The name change better reflects the increased functions of the bureau. BCIIA would have the following units: Consumer Information Network Division, Information Requests Office, Policy Division, Disability Rights Office, Reference Information Center, and Consumer Affairs and Outreach Division.

The Enforcement Bureau and the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau would pick up some additional functions, but the structure of the bureaus would remain the same.

There would be some minor changes in other parts of the agency as well. For example, we plan to consolidate the oversight of the disparate defense functions into the Office of Engineering and Technology. EAS functions would move to OET. OLIA would go back to being OLA.

Over the next couple of months, the bureaus will work with staff and our Union, the National Treasury Employees Union Chapter 209, to develop a specific plan for the restructuring. We will be working out who should move and with which specific functions and assignments. I want to note that, under the plan, no staff will be eliminated.

After we finalize the specifics, we will present for the Commissioners’ consideration a circulation item to amend the rules related to the organizational structure and the delegation of authority provisions, as well as the companion personnel changes. Once that circulation item has been adopted, we will seek formal NTEU approval. Next, pursuant to Section 605(a) of Public Law 105-277, the Commission can’t use appropriated funds to reorganize unless the Appropriations committees of both Houses of Congress are notified fifteen days in advance of such reprogramming of funds. Once we obtain concurrence from our Appropriators and Authorizers, the plan will become effective.

This is an interim report, as the reform initiatives are ongoing. I continue to welcome public and employee input, and look forward to reporting on future progress in all these areas.

Thank you.

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