The government's summary report on sale of the nation's weather satellites was revised drastically before the final draft was written so that all but one listed "disadvantage" of the sale was erased and every "advantage" retained, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.
At the same time, it was learned, Communications Satellite Corp. (Comsat) representatives began pressing Commerce Department officials as far back as 1981 to cut government satellite budgets so Comsat could buy the vehicles, according to a Commerce Department memorandum.
Comsat officials have said in recent months that since the government is cutting back support of the satellites it is important for a private company such as Comsat to step in and buy them rather than let the satellite system decay.
But a December, 1981, memo by then-Deputy Secretary of Commerce Joseph R. Wright reported that it was a Comsat representative who recommended cutting the satellite budget "to the extent to where it had to be spun off to the outside community."
Wright said Comsat representative James Lynn had called him "several times" to suggest reducing the satellite budget. Wright indicated in the memo that the matter had to be settled first as a matter of policy by the Cabinet Council on Commerce and Trade.
Lynn said in an interview yesterday that he recalled those conversations with Wright, and said he did press for cutting the satellite budgets so that a policy to sell the satellites "might be reflected in the budget."
Though the government eventually put out a general request asking interested parties to express their interest in buying the satellites, none but Comsat offered to buy both the land and weather satellites. Eleven other major companies opposed the idea or expressed no interest in it.
Government policy had been to keep the weather satellites public, and each of the reports produced by the government over the past year warned Commerce Department officials of the dangers of selling the weather satellites to a private firm.
In early drafts of the report produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which operates the satellites, nine "advantages" to selling the weather satellites were listed along with six "disadvantages."
In later versions of the document, 10 advantages appear and one abbreviated disadvantage appears.
Other sections of the report, which refer to the previous policy not to sell the satellites, have been deleted in final drafts.
Comsat representatives met with Commerce officials scores of times over the year. And in recent hearings Rep. James H. Scheuer (D-N.Y.) suggested that Comsat had an unusual "pipeline" directly into Commerce's decision-making processes at a time when neither Congress nor other companies were being kept informed of the decisions.
Also at that hearing, Secretary of Commerce Malcolm Baldrige announced that his deputy secretary and several other assistants had "recused themselves" from any further part in the satellite sale.
Baldrige said that at the same time Deputy Secretary Guy Fiske was overseeing the Comsat and satellite debate, he was also meeting with Comsat officials about a job offer.
Scheuer's Science and Technology subcommittee had requested the calendars and telephone logs of Fiske and his principal assistant, Michael Bayer. Most of the documents were delivered yesterday for hearings that had been scheduled for Thursday.
Fiske has retained an attorney and asked for a week's delay in the hearing. Scheuer has set the new hearing date for May 5, when the subcommittee will examine Fiske's relations to Comsat and his role in making decisions on the Comsat proposal.