2017 Budget Winners and Losers

Obama's final budget request may be dead on arrival, but it points to some clear priorities, a few of which even Republicans could embrace.

President Obama’s final budget request is an exercise in optimism or fantasy, depending on your political viewpoint. The Republican chairmen of the House and Senate Budget Committees aren’t even pretending to take it seriously. They said they wouldn’t invite White House Budget Director Shaun Donovan to testify on the proposal, a snub that’s not occurred since 1974, according to Stan Collender, Executive Vice President and National Director of Financial Communications for Qorvis/MSLGROUP.

While the bulk of the $4.1 trillion budget will pay for entitlement programs, it includes $1.2 trillion in discretionary funding, split between domestic and military programs. Most agencies would see relatively small gains or losses in funding, but a few would see sharp declines over 2016 spending levels, including the Army Corps of Engineers (-30%), the Transportation Department (-19%), the Health and Human Services Department (-9%), NASA (-6%) and the Small Business Administration (-6%).  

While the Republican-controlled Congress already has ruled out many of the administration’s tax and spending proposals, there are some noteworthy investments that could receive bipartisan support:

Cybersecurity investments. The budget contains $19 billion in cybersecurity funding to protect networks supporting critical infrastructure and invest in new technologies. It supports a Cybersecurity National Action Plan as well as the creation of a new $3.1 billion revolving fund, the Information Technology Modernization Fund, to replace antiquated federal IT systems with more secure and efficient models and boost cyber skills in the federal workforce.  

Digital services for citizens. To institutionalize gains by the U.S. Digital Service, the administration wants to hire 500 technology and design experts by January 2017.  

A push to cure cancer. President Obama has asked Vice President Joe Biden to lead a new, national “moonshot” initiative to eliminate cancer. The $1 billion effort would accelerate the development of new cancer detection tools and treatments. It also includes $195 million in new funding for the National Institutes of Health in 2016 and $755 million in 2017 for NIH, the Food and Drug Administration, and the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

Tackling the heroin epidemic. The budget notes that “more Americans now die every year from drug overdoses than they do in motor vehicle crashes.” It includes $1 billion in new mandatory funding over two years to expand access to treatment for prescription drug abuse and heroin use and includes funding to boost efforts to expand state-level prescription drug overdose prevention strategies.

Criminal justice reform. The budget includes $5 billion for a new 21st Century Justice Initiative that will focus on reducing crime, reversing practices that have led to unnecessarily long sentences and unneeded incarceration, and building community trust.