President Reagan is considering a plan to abolish the Council of Economic Advisers, the Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, and also is planning to ask Congress to create a new Department of International Trade and Industry, White House officials said yesterday.
Reagan also is delaying the appointment of a new education secretary "until he decides whether he wants to keep the department," an official said. Administration officials also have discussed creating a new Department of Science and Technology, but budget cuts in existing departments probably have made the department impossible for quite some time, officials said.
The possible reorganization moves surfaced as the president continued to struggle with the defense budget yesterday.
After making a luncheon presentation to Reagan and his top budget advisers, Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger agreed to search for some savings in Pentagon spending next year, officials said.
Weinberger's agreement came after Reagan repeated his Friday statement that the secretary should make a contribution toward efforts to reduce the deficit. But left unresolved were the critical questions of how much savings and whether they would apply to future years as well fiscal 1986, officials said.
Administration sources said after the luncheon that Reagan appeared to be in no mood to accept major trims of his defense buildup, as Office of Management and Budget Director David A. Stockman has proposed. Stockman previously had outlined a plan to trim $8 billion from the estimated $286 billion in defense spending for fiscal 1986, and savings of $20 billion in 1987 and $30 billion in 1988.
White House spokesman Larry Speakes said Reagan made no decisions at the meeting and would discuss the issue later this week with aides. Another official said the defense spending issue might not be resolved until next week.
A White House official said Reagan raised the idea of abolishing the Council of Economic Advisers in a recent interview with the conservative weekly Human Events. The official said the text of the interview is to be published by the newspaper next week.
The three-member council has been without a chairman since Martin S. Feldstein resigned last summer. The council provides economic advice to the president and also prepares an annual report on the economy.
Reagan, who often has said he does not trust economic projections, made the comment by way of suggesting that the council's functions could be performed by other agencies, such as the Treasury Department, the Commerce Department and the Office of Management and Budget, the official said. The council has an annual budget of about $2.5 million.
A second official, who asked not to be identified, said the idea of abolishing the council had come from subordinates to White House counselor Edwin Meese III. But an assistant to Meese, Bruce Chapman, said, "this is not a Meese-generated idea."
The plan to abolish the council also included elimination of two other agencies, officials said. One is the Council on Environmental Quality, which publishes an annual report on the environment and has been sharply trimmed during the Reagan administration. The other is the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, located within the Office of Management and Budget, which oversees federal procurement.
The proposal to create a Department of International Trade and Industry, by merging the existing Commerce Department with other trade-related offices, is certain to be sent to Congress next year, officials said.
The administration proposed a similar reorganization in Reagan's first term but it went nowhere in Congress. Officials said Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige, chief advocate of the idea, has a pledge from Reagan to make the proposal again.
The idea of a Department of Science and Technology grew out of the Baldrige proposal, officials said. Since the new trade department would be built on the existing Commerce Department, a "home" was needed for agencies not related to trade, such as the Census Bureau, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Bureau of Standards.
It was thought these agencies could become the new science and technology department, officials said, but this year's deep budget cuts in existing programs will probably make it impossible to create a new department.