THE Smithsonian Institution's 6,600 employees have just received a memo warning them of unprecedented layoffs before the end of August as the result of a $40 million shortfall in the institution's budget next year.
"After thorough consideration of the alternatives before us, we have concluded that the FY [fiscal year] 1993 Federal and Trust budgets must reflect permanent programatic reductions through the elimination of positions," Robert Adams, secretary of the Smithsonian, told employees in the memo.
This is the first instance of such layoffs in institutional memory.
In August, says Mr. Adams's memo, "we will begin the process of identifying the most effective and humane manner of bringing about the necessary reductions and, where possible, implement those reductions."
Some members of the media reported that as many as 1,000 employees could be laid off. But Smithsonian spokeswoman Madeline Jacobs indicated that far fewer than 1,000 would lose their jobs.
"We're concerned about people here," Ms. Jacobs says. "It's not an easy thing with a $364.7 million [federal] budget to cut $30 million. I have no idea how many people we're talking about."
She adds, "Put in the perspective of the entire nation, the Smithsonian is not immune from the general economy. And we've been notifying our people for months, doing articles, memoranda, telling them that congressional hearings have reported Congress will not be able to give the full requests."
In his memo, Adams indicated that a $30 million shortfall could come from "constraints" of the federal budget, while the remainder comes from the institution's trust fund, which faces a $10 million deficit as a result of the recession.
"Our target is preserving high priority programs, striking a balance, preserving those and services for visitors and behind the scenes research on collections," Jacobs says.
She says included in those are programs on multicultural diversity, especially the National Museum of the American Indian and some programs to serve blacks, Hispanics, and Asian Americans.
"We're also maintaining high priorities in terms of buildings and collections," she says.
"We've had so much growth in the last few years, and people have gotten used to it. It's not just that revenues have dropped, it's that programs have grown...," Jacobs adds. "We can't support all of these. We don't want to alarm people. We're really working hard to maintain services for the public, make this an exciting and important place to come to."
The Smithsonian represents a vast cultural armada that includes many popular major museums and the National Zoo. It is also responsible for worldwide scientific research.