On Monday, several departments and agencies presented the details of their portions of the $2.23 trillion fiscal 2004 budget submitted by President Bush. What follows are highlights of those details presented at departmental budget briefings. Proposed increases are based on the $752 billion in fiscal 2003 discretionary spending that Bush has requested, since 11 of the 13 fiscal 2003 appropriations bills are not yet finished.
Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman Monday unveiled a $74 billion fiscal 2004 budget request that is 2 percent higher than the administration's fiscal 2003 request. Veneman said the administration is asking for record spending for the Food Safety and Inspection Service, which inspects meat and poultry, but the $899 million request includes $122 million in fees and reduces the amount the government would spend in general revenues from $756 million to $675 million. Congress has rejected such proposals many times. The budget proposes capping the Conservation Security Program, a new and so-far unimplemented entitlement, at $2 billion per year. And it sets up a fund for conservation technical assistance on the basis of a Justice Department ruling that it is illegal to use the mandatory spending account for that purpose.
The budget includes a $6.6 million fund within the Office of the Secretary to fight "trade-related challenges" such as "biotechnology barriers" and supplement trade negotiation efforts by the Foreign Agricultural Service and Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The budget does not replenish the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust, which has been tapped for food aid, and is named for former Rep. Bill Emerson, R-Mo. The administration is proposing tighter analysis of the eligibility of low-income children for school feeding programs and says unspecified savings would be "reinvested" in school feeding programs, but the budget includes no additional money for the child nutrition programs, which are scheduled for reauthorization this year.-By Jerry Hagstrom
The administration's fiscal 2004 budget proposal would increase funding slightly for the Commerce Department, but phase out two popular technology programs. President Bush's requested $5.4 billion spending plan for the department is $5.1 billion larger than the fiscal 2003 request. The total would include an $18 million increase for the International Trade Administration, which has a $382 million budget, and $12 million more for the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Bush is proposing to phase out both the Advanced Technology Program and Manufacturing Extension Partnership-two programs that were targeted for elimination last year but funded by Congress anyway.
The White House is proposing a steep cut for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)-down to $22 million from the $61 million request in fiscal 2003 because of a proposed $41 million cut in the fund for public telecommunications, planning and construction. The administration also wants a portion of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's budget to be used to buy equipment for the transition from broadcast to digital television. -By Teri Rucker
President Bush is asking Congress for almost $400 billion for the next fiscal year on the way toward a record peacetime total that would hit the half-trillion dollar mark by fiscal 2009. And these requests do not include the additional billions that would be needed to invade and occupy Iraq, a sum the Pentagon has yet to disclose. The requested $399.1 billion for fiscal 2004 is $16.9 billion more than the current defense budget, a hike of 4.4 percent in the national defense, or so-called 050, account, which includes billions for the Energy Department to build nuclear warheads for the Pentagon. Deleting that work brings down the Bush request for the Pentagon to $379.9 billion for fiscal 2004, an increase of $15.3 billion, or 4.2 percent, over the current level of $364.6 billion.
Those numbers and what Bush wants to do with them are a starting point for the congressional debate that will rage between now and the 2004 presidential elections. How much is needed to police the world, including pre-emptive strikes to disarm unfriendly nations like Iraq, and to protect the home front from terrorist attack is one of the big questions Congress will debate. A second is how the giant sums projected for national defense should be apportioned. The here-and-now needs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps are competing with the determination of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to junk old hardware now to free up money for the new high tech weapons needed for the radically different challenges of the post-Cold War world. In this competition, the services may find themselves short of aircraft and ships for years. -By George C. Wilson
The Bush administration's fiscal 2004 budget request for the Education Department would boost spending by roughly $3 billion to $53.1 billion, with most of the increase directed to help states implement the 2002 educational reform law. More than $12 billion in Title I grants would be made available to help improve school performance, including money to attract better qualified teachers and to measure student progress in reading and mathematics. But a host of technology programs would be eliminated because officials charge that many of them are ineffective or duplicative. Citing the limited impact of community technology centers, the budget proposes killing the program, which allocated $30.5 million in fiscal 2002 to provide residents of low-income areas with access to computer, Internet and training services. Other programs- including Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology and the Regional Technology In Education Consortia, both of which provide funds to train teachers in new technologies or provide technical assistance-would be slashed under the fiscal 2004 plan, and the national clearinghouse for math and science resources eliminated.
The president recommended a $3.1 billion increase for student financial aid for post-secondary education, putting overall funding at $62 billion for fiscal 2004. That would include a $1.9 billion boost in funding for Pell grants, bringing the total level to $12.7 billion. The budget would make $4,000 grants available to 4.9 million students for post-secondary education. Funding for historically black colleges and universities also would rise under the spending plan, to $277 million from the $264 million requested in fiscal 2003. -By Maureen Sirhal
Energy Department funding would increase modestly under President Bush's fiscal 2004 budget request, going to $23.4 billion from the $22.1 billion that Bush sought in fiscal 2003. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said the proposal is much larger than meets the eye. "Taking into account the DOE activities that are now the responsibility of the Homeland Security Department, DOE's budget will have grown by about 25 percent over the last three years," Abraham said. The agency spent $21.3 billion in fiscal 2002. Continued research into hydrogen-powered fuel cells, which Bush identified as a priority in his State of the Union address last month, would receive $1.5 billion over the next five years.
Among other DOE budget highlights: $12 million for a program to advance international fusion energy research and $591 million for the radioactive waste management program, which is leading the government effort to complete a nuclear waste storage facility at Nevada's Yucca Mountain. To help speed the cleaning up of massive contamination at federal nuclear weapons production facilities, the White House proposes $7.2 billion, an increase of $244 million over the fiscal 2003 spending request and a record amount for the program, the administration says. There is also a proposed $6.4 billion for safeguarding nuclear stockpiles. For DOE advanced scientific research, the president is proposing $3.3 billion, up $55 million increase over the fiscal 2003 request. -By Pamela Barnett
EPA's fiscal 2004 budget request technically would boost the administration's environmental spending by approximately $20 million over projected fiscal 2003 numbers to $7.6 billion, although a number of the increases, including $7 million to implement his controversial Clean Air Act reform legislative proposal, may have a difficult time in Congress. An additional $5 million in new money to fund an overhaul of the agency's civil enforcement program, which environmentalists fear will weaken the program. EPA and OMB added the money to fund development of performance-based measures to judge the successes of the program, a move activists fear will speed efforts to shift away from enforcement and towards assistance activities that is already underway.
The administration also proposes to cut $500 million from the revolving loan program that makes grants to states for wastewater improvements. Although virtually every year the executive branch trims out the hundreds of millions of earmarked water projects, appropriators inevitably reinsert them, drawing down base funding at least partially to pay for them. For the first time during the Bush administration, EPA plans to add 100 employees to its enforcement program. After several years of unsuccessfully lobbying Congress to shift federal funds to state environmental law enforcement, EPA Administrator Christine Whitman said the White House has given up the idea and instead is looking to boost the federal presence. -By John Stanton
FCC testing facilities would be improved, its engineering expertise enhanced and oversight by its inspector general's office boosted under the $281 million fiscal 2004 agency budget that President Bush proposed Monday. The proposal is $3 million larger than the $278 million the White House requested in fiscal 2003. The new spending proposal would be offset in part by $252 million in regulatory fees. Noting that FCC spectrum auctions have improved consumers' access to wireless telecommunications services, the administration said it would request legislation this year to indefinitely extend the agency's auction authority, which expires in 2007. The budget estimates that auctions will net $2.2 billion over 10 years. -By Teri Rucker
The Homeland Security Department would receive a $36.2 billion budget for fiscal 2004 under the Bush administration's proposals, a 7.4 percent increase over fiscal 2003 levels, for programs shifted into the new department. The department's budget includes $829 million for information analysis and infrastructure protection, which is nearly four times the amount President Bush requested in fiscal 2003. Of those funds, $500 million would be earmarked to assess the nation's critical infrastructures-such as telecommunications networks, transportation systems and nuclear power plants-and address high-priority vulnerabilities. The budget also calls for $18.1 billion for border and transportation security. That includes $4.8 billion for the Transportation Security Administration, and $480 million to continue building a comprehensive system to monitor the entry and exit of all foreign visitors to the United States. Current immigration law requires that system to be built by 2005.
The border and transportation security budget also would provide $307 million for the Customs Service's ongoing automated commercial environment initiative, $119 million for new inspection technologies to prevent terrorists from smuggling dangerous cargo into U.S. ports, $62 million for the container security initiative, and $18 million for the Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism program.
Bush's fiscal 2004 budget would provide $6.7 billion to re-capitalize the Coast Guard, which represents a 10 percent increase over his fiscal 2003 request. That includes $500 million for the "Deepwater" modernization program, which will help the Coast Guard integrate its aircraft, ships and related systems with other components of the department. The Coast Guard's fiscal 2004 request also includes $134 million for the continued development of a "maritime 911" emergency response system. State and local "first responders" would receive $3.5 billion, including $500 million in grants to firefighters and $500 million to support anti-terrorism initiatives by state and local law enforcement agencies. -By Molly M. Peterson
Housing and Urban Development Department
HUD Monday proposed converting the Section 8 housing vouchers into a state-run block grant, to be called Housing Assistance for Needy Families, although details on the proposed, two-year transition were not yet available. In addition, HUD announced that it would return multifamily insurance premiums to 50 basis points. Three years ago, HUD hiked the premiums to 80 percent, and then lowered them last year to 57 points. Jerry Howard, president of the National Association of Home Builders, supported the return to 50 points, saying it would make insurance available at a lower cost, thereby making multifamily housing more affordable. In addition, HUD proposed increasing the HOME Investment Partnerships by $113 million over its fiscal 2002 budget request, and proposed tripling its funds for the so-called "sweat equity" programs to $65 million. As expected, HUD did not request additional funds to cover its $250 million shortfall in operating subsidies for public housing authorities. -By Corine Hegland
New money to help unemployed workers pay for job training and transportation at a cost of $3.6 billion over two years is the centerpiece of President Bush's fiscal 2004 proposal for the Labor Department. However, the president proposes an overall decrease in the department's discretionary spending of about $600 million over its fiscal 2002 level. "At the top of our agenda will be getting America back to work," said Deputy Secretary of Labor D. Cameron Findlay, who gave the briefing in place of Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, whose husband, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., underwent heart bypass surgery Monday. House Republicans praised the proposal, known as personal re-employment accounts, and have already introduced a bill based on it. But the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities warns that additional unemployment insurance benefits, not new accounts that could take years to implement, would be a more effective economic boost.
The Labor Department budget also offers reforms for Congress to consider later this year, including giving the Labor secretary authority to reallocate state formula grants that have not been spent and allowing her to collect fines from unions as well as businesses who do not file their financial disclosure documents on time. The administration would also reform the Unemployment Insurance Administration and increase OSHA's budget by $13 million over fiscal 2003.-By April Fulton
The White House Monday recommended funding the SEC at $842 million in fiscal 2004, "nearly double the 2002 level" of $459 million. But while that figure represents a significant increase from fiscal 2002, it is not significantly higher than the fiscal 2003 funding levels for the SEC suggested by the House and Senate, which have yet to finish the fiscal 2003 appropriations bill for the agency. House appropriators have recommended funding SEC at $776 million in fiscal 2003, and the Senate has recommended $656.7 million. Key Democratic senators earlier urged that Senate funding be increased, noting that the Senate Appropriations Committee, under Democratic control, previously approved a $750 million allocation. The recently enacted Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which President Bush signed into law in July, called for an appropriation of $776 million for fiscal 2003. -By Pamela Barnett
The Transportation Department Monday unveiled a $54.3 billion budget request that represents a 6 percent increase from its fiscal 2003 request, and establishes the administration's foundations for the important highway and aviation reauthorizations that Congress will consider this year. Deputy Transportation Secretary Michael Jackson said the administration requested $29.3 billion for fiscal 2004 federal highway spending. He said that amount would come from the revenues flowing into the highway trust fund by redirecting all revenue from gasohol taxes into the trust fund, and by spending down the fund's balance by an extra $1 billion to create a new initiative addressing immediate highway needs and projects. Jackson said the department will unveil its highway reauthorization plan "soon"-but he announced that this plan will call for $195 billion for federal highway spending over the next six years, an amount that is sure to disappoint some legislators who will be pressing for much more than that. The last surface transportation reauthorization bill-the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century-spent $168 billion over six years on highways.
Jackson also said the fiscal 2004 budget request for the FAA was $14 billion, and he announced that although revenues in the aviation trust fund are declining, the administration plans to boost spending on airport construction projects by spending down more of the balance in that trust fund. Finally, Jackson set fiscal 2004 funding for Amtrak at $900 million-almost $400 million more than its request from last year-but he said the administration will demand "significant" reforms at the nation's passenger rail service.-By Mark Murray