Billington: Budget Freeze Could Lead to Staffing Cuts

Posted March 12, 2004 at 3:23pm

Echoing statements from other legislative branch agencies, Librarian of Congress James Billington told Senate appropriators last week that a freeze in spending levels for fiscal 2005 could lead to staffing cuts at his organization.

The Librarian made the statement in response to an inquiry from Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch and has said all Congressional agencies will need to consider reductions in their funding requests.

“This budget will be very tough to accommodate in the budget environment we face this year,” Campbell noted during a hearing Thursday on the Library’s appropriations request.

The legislative branch agencies are seeking a combined $4.4 billion in funding, an increase of about $457 million, or 12 percent, from the current fiscal year.

Because a significant portion of the Library’s budget goes to staff costs, Billington said, any decrease in the request would likely lead to personnel reductions. Both the Congressional Budget Office and the General Accounting Office made similar statements at a Senate Appropriations hearing earlier this month.

The Library is seeking about $602 million for its fiscal 2005 budget, an increase of 7.6 percent over the current fiscal year. That total includes authority to use nearly $40 million in Library-generated revenue.

In testimony, Billington noted the Library’s dual challenge of continuing to collect and preserve various forms of information while moving ahead with technological changes.

“The Library’s mission is unchanging — to make its resources available and useful to the Congress and the American people and to sustain and preserve a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future generations,” Billington stated. “What is new is the need to acquire, sort and provide access to the massive unfiltered content of the Internet in order to keep our collections universal and continue to provide full information and services to Congress and the American people.”

Billington highlighted requests for the Library’s National Audio Visual Conservation Center, Congressional Research Service, Copyright Office and Veterans History Program, as well as for its digital talking book technology, preservation and acquisitions programs.

The budget also includes $7.3 million for security measures, including the perimeter security project as well as 45 additional full-time equivalent officers for the Library’s police force.

Additionally, Billington touched on the $121.8 million request included in the Architect of the Capitol’s fiscal 2005 budget, which would be used for both maintenance and construction of Library facilities.

That request includes $38.5 million for two additional buildings at the Library’s storage facility in Ft. Meade, Md., and $59.2 million for the Copyright Deposit Facility.

Elizabeth Brotherton contributed to this report.