WASHINGTON -- With a vow to slash the cost of government without resorting to "a mean spirit or a meat ax," President Clinton announced yesterday another set of spending cuts in federal agencies.
Mr. Clinton said the latest reductions would save $13.1 billion and eliminate nearly 5,000 federal jobs over the next five years at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Small Business Administration, the Interior Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The savings would be used to help pay for Mr. Clinton's $60 billion middle-class tax cut, which he announced in December to counter Republican tax-reduction proposals.
Mr. Clinton said that his streamlining efforts are more "humane and decent," and more realistic than those of his GOP rivals.
He noted that his government-cutting plans would preserve summer jobs programs, subsidized school lunches and the national service corps, all targets of Republican budget-cutters on Capitol Hill.
The newest cuts would be deepest at NASA, which would lose $8 billion and 2,000 jobs over the next five years, representing roughly a 10 percent cut in budget and personnel.
NASA administrator Daniel Goldin said yesterday that the programs and offices that would be closed are obsolete and have no bearing on the space agency's core missions.
"The problem we have is we have an infrastructure that's 35 years old," Mr. Goldin said at a White House briefing. "It's got to change, and we've got to be ready for the 21st century. Everything is on the table."
Mr. Goldin was vague about the specific cuts that would yield the $8 billion in savings, saying that they would be identified by studies that will not be completed for several months. Some of NASA's current operations would be sold or transferred to private industry or universities.
Mr. Goldin said the budget reductions would mean a loss of about 10,000 jobs at private contractors who do the bulk of NASA's design, engineering and assembly work.
At Interior, officials plan to turn over to states and American Indian tribes the job of collecting oil and mineral royalties on public land.
The agency also will close the Office of Territorial and International Affairs, a relic of America's tenure as a colonial power. The office oversees relations with Pacific islands that became U.S. territories under United Nations mandate after World War II, including Palau, the Marshall Islands and the Marianas.
Interior also will turn over to Maryland and Virginia parkways now maintained at federal expense -- the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, the George Washington and Clara Barton parkways, and the Suitland Parkway. The U.S. government will contribute to their maintenance over the next three years and then phase out the payments.
The SBA, by making banks and borrowers pick up the cost of processing loans while closing a number of regional offices, would save $1.2 billion and cut 500 jobs.
FEMA would save $100 million by reducing its payroll by 305 and using state employees and volunteers to pick up the slack.