Officials at the besieged Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms say it is "highly probable" that they will issue general RIF (reduction in force) notices to their 3,300 staffers in the next few days.
BATF, a Treasury Department unit, has 700 workers here.
Thirty days after the general RIF notice goes out BATF can begin firing some workers.
The Reagan administration has been under pressure from the gun lobby to put the safety catch on the agency's gun control section. BATF also collects taxes from tobacco companies and makes life difficult for moonshiners.
Current plan is to meld the BATF and its staff with the Customs Service and the Secret Service. Both are Treasury units.
BATF told Congress it would need $138 million this fiscal year but the stopgap funding measure (to keep agencies operating through March 31 because Congress has failed to approve their budgets) sets the BATF spending level at $115 million.
Customs and Secret Service are not eager to take on the BATF, particularly since its money troubles mean layoffs. They would like BATF to make its job cuts before its enforced dual marriage, otherwise Customs and Secret Service might have to run the RIF by firing some of their workers.
The general RIF notice will allow BATF to begin RIFs within 30 days unless Congress gives it more money, and to make necessary layoffs before it is melded into its sister agencies.