most of them in the Social Security Administration -- would be eliminated in fiscal 1986 under a Reagan administration drive to cut the number and size of federal offices outside of Washington.
The proposals would consolidate some regional offices and close some "storefront" offices. Some, but not all, of the plans would require congressional approval.
Under an executive order signed by President Richard M. Nixon in 1974, major agencies are supposed to staff regional offices in 10 cities, although many agencies have many more local offices. The regional cities are Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, Denver, Seattle, San Francisco and Dallas-Fort Worth.
The Office of Management and Budget estimates that 87 percent of the government's civilian employes are stationed outside of Washington at more than 22,000 facilities.
Legislation now limits the changes an administration can make in the field offices of the Commerce, Agriculture, Defense, Health and Human Services, Treasury, Interior and Housing and Urban Development departments, as well as the Veterans Administration, according to the OMB.
"What we want to do is consolidate and upgrade federal field structure to cut back on waste that comes due to outmoded and sometimes politicized decisions," Joseph R. Wright Jr., deputy OMB director, said last month.
"You can't say all agencies should operate in the same places; they've got to operate near where they deliver their services."
The OMB determined, for example, that in the urbanized East, the typical farmer lives an average of 10 miles from a USDA field office. But in the more rural West, the average distance is 35 miles. "Does that make sense?" Wright asked.
On Wednesday, OMB will send Congress a report outlining its proposals. A draft of the report included these proposed cutbacks:
* Trimming as many as 19,000 employes of the Social Security Administration. The OMB wants to close about 200 of the agency's 1,318 storefront offices, saving $300 million. But SSA spokesman John Trollinger said, "We were not consulted in any way and we have no plans to shut down a large number of field offices." He said the fiscal 1986 budget calls for eliminating 17,000 of the agency's 80,000 jobs, and added, "We feel that we can accomplish the reduction through attrition and without an impact on the service to the public."
* Consolidating 58 Veterans Administration benefit offices into three offices, saving up to $44.5 million. As many as 1,920 jobs would be trimmed.
* Limiting the Labor Department to seven regional offices, Health and Human Services to five, Housing and Urban Development to five and Education to three. About 1,100 jobs would be cut.
The field structure of the Environmental Protection Agency also would be trimmed to seven regional offices and the agency would be asked to consolidate its 31 laboratories into "a limited number of scientific centers." The Federal Emergency Management Agency would be limited to six regional offices, and the Office of Personnel Management to five.
In addition, some agencies are taking steps to reduce field operations, often as a way of meeting budget targets. According to the General Services Administration, the Small Business Administration plans to shut down all 110 SBA field offices across the country. The U.S. Customs Service, meanwhile, told the GSA it intends to shut most of its regional offices and consolidate its finance operations in Indianapolis.
Both of those initiatives, and the OMB package, are likely to provoke opposition on Capitol Hill, where members traditionally have opposed efforts to reduce the federal work force in their home districts.
Last week, Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.) wrote to all agency heads that her House subcommittee on Civil Service plans to examine "the effects of these consolidations on civil servants and the services they provide." She asked the officials to provide specifics on any plans to "consolidate or eliminate regional or field offices" in both fiscal 1985 and fiscal 1986.
"We don't want to oppose the cuts wholeheartedly," said subcommittee aide Ellen Battistelli. "But we are also concerned about the cutbacks in a broader sense: What is the impact on the consumer? We don't know that now."
She said Schroeder will conduct at least three public hearings on the issue -- probably in Denver, Seattle and Kansas City, which have the smallest offices of the 10 regions.