NTIS hiring freeze draws ire

The National Technical Information Service workforce is dwindling under

a hiring freeze imposed by the Commerce Department, according to an advisory

commission.

NTIS collects, archives and sells scientific and technical data provided

by or for the government.

Employee reductions there have been so substantial that the agency "is

rapidly falling below the minimum satisfactory level of staffing needed

to sustain it," according to a letter written by officials at the National

Commission on Libraries and Information Science and sent last month to Commerce

Secretary Norman Mineta. The commission advises the president and Congress

on library and information policies.

NTIS has lost about 40 percent of its staff, according to Woody Horton,

a consultant at the commission.

The staff of about 340 has shrunk to about 200, he said. The agency

is "losing key people with experience and professional skills" that will

be difficult to replace, Horton said. If the hiring freeze continues, NTIS

is likely to become "so dysfunctional that revitalizing it would be extremely

daunting, if not impossible," the letter's authors said.

Several federal agencies that rely on NTIS to store, catalog and disseminate

their scientific and technical information "are fearful that the freeze's

continuation will adversely impact their missions," according to the letter.

Mineta has not yet replied to the National Commission on Libraries and

Information Science's letter.

In 1999, Commerce announced plans to shut NTIS down or transfer it to

the Library of Congress. However, Congress and others quashed the idea.

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