White House submits changes to budget request

President Bush late Friday sent Congress amendments to his fiscal 2009 budget, including an increase of more than $172 million for a computer overhaul of the USDA's Farm Service Agency and for costs associated with the recently enacted farm bill.

"I have reviewed these requests and am satisfied that they are necessary at this time," Office of Management and Budget Director James Nussle said in a letter.

The recommended increases in the request would be offset with cuts in other parts of the budget.

For example, $192.3 million in proposed cuts within USDA would pay for the $172.3 million increase for the Farm Service Agency. The White House called for trimming an extra $43 million in the USDA so the budget request would comport with the enactment of the farm bill.

Within the Education Department, the White House proposed a $50 million increase for the Office of Federal Student Aid to implement student loan purchase authority provided in student loan legislation signed into law last May. The increase would pay for increased servicing costs associated with any increase in the direct loan volume; implement the Lender of Last Resort program authorized in the Higher Education Act and conduct an independent audit of the student loan purchase authority.

Meanwhile, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would see a $13 million funding increase that would be used to help improve forecasting and tracking of hurricane intensity, although no specific offsets were listed. HHS' public health and social services emergency fund would get an additional $905 million to enhance preparedness against a bioterrorist attack, such as a flu pandemic. That boost would be offset by a $939.8 million reduction within the department, which would also partially offset other proposed increases.

An additional $34.8 million is sought for the Environmental Protection Agency's Science and Technology and the Hazardous Substance Superfund accounts to address gaps in its anthrax-attack response plan. The proposed increases would be fully offset by reductions to other accounts.

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