What We Know About Trump’s Proposed Budget Cuts So Far
Leaks detail where the $54 billion in spending reductions would take place; some agency leaders plan to fight back.
The Trump administration has promised massive cuts in its preliminary budget later this month, including $54 billion in spending reductions to domestic agencies.
The White House will not provide the details and distribution of those cuts until next week, when it submits to Congress the topline suggestions for agency spending. Overall, non-defense agencies would collectively see their discretionary spending cut by about 10 percent in fiscal 2018. That is on top of a restoration of spending limits set by the 2011 Budget Control Act.
Office of Management and Budget officials have been careful to say the White House and agencies are currently engaging in the “passback” phase of the budgeting process, and discussions of specific programs to cut or eliminate are preliminary in nature. Still, leaked memoranda have demonstrated at least initial thoughts on how Trump and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney envision the reductions taking place. OMB has said “most federal agencies” will face cuts.
Ultimately, agencies’ funding levels will go through the appropriations process and in many cases, Trump’s own agency leaders have vowed to fight back against proposed cuts. Still, the following reports demonstrate where the White House’s thinking is on the budget:
Coast Guard: According to a Politico report Thursday, the Coast Guard -- funded under the Homeland Security Department -- would face a 14 percent cut to $7.8 billion under Trump’s proposal. It would be the lone military service to face cuts, with other national security entities seeing their budget increase by a collective $54 billion. The proposal will likely receive pushback in Congress, with Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who chairs the House subcommittee with oversight over the Coast Guard, saying the administration was “off in la-la land.”
“We’re not doing what they’re doing,” Hunter told Politico.
Federal Emergency Management Agency: FEMA would face an 11 percent cut under Trump’s preliminary plans, according to the same Politico report, amounting to a $370 million reduction.
Transportation Security Administration: TSA would also see an 11 percent reduction, per Politico, resulting in $500 million in cuts. TSA has seen its spending essentially leveled off in recent years, and Congress has frozen its hiring in two consecutive omnibus spending deals. Proposed cuts would focus on slashing behavioral detection officers and local law enforcement grants to airports, among other areas.
“President Trump promised to ‘make American safe again,’ but the drastic budget cuts he’s proposing will do just the opposite,” said J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents most TSA employees. “You don’t improve security by slashing budgets for programs that prevent terrorists from hijacking airplanes, keep illegal narcotics off our streets, and counter violent extremists in our neighborhoods.”
Environmental Protection Agency: As originally reported by The Washington Post and confirmed in a memo obtained by Government Executive, EPA would see its budget cut by 25 percent and its workforce reduced by 20 percent. The agency would use buyouts, reductions in force and other means to cut its employees. Grants to states would be reduced by 30 percent, while nearly two-dozen programs and grants would be eliminated entirely. That would include President Obama’s Clean Power Plan implementation, Energy Star grants and the Office of Public Engagement.
The cuts are not yet finalized and are still being negotiated by EPA staff. Acting Assistant Administrator Donna Vizian said in a memo to employees obtained by Government Executive that newly sworn in Administrator Scott Pruitt “will be working hard on our behalf to effectively represent us in the deliberations.” Changes are likely, Vizian said, but Pruitt “wants to take a pragmatic approach to our appropriation.”
State Department: State would face a dramatic 37 percent cut, according to the Associated Press, though it would be spread out over three years. In fiscal 2018, State and the U.S. Agency for International Development would see a 20 percent reduction. Again, the reductions would face a difficult path in the Senate. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters proposed cuts to foreign aid were “dead on arrival” and “not going to happen.” An OMB official said last week the Trump administration will expect the “rest of the world to step up” to fund programs the United States had previously supported.
Commerce Department: Commerce would face an 18 percent cut, according to The Washington Post, with much of that coming from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA could see a 17 percent budget cut in Trump’s proposal, which significant savings stemming from reductions in its satellite data division and its research team. The National Marine Fisheries Service and National Weather Service would face only 5 percent cuts. In what would be an unusual move for a presidential budget, the preliminary document suggested a 1.9 percent pay raise specifically for Commerce employees.
Interior Department: Interior would face a 10 percent reduction under the White House’s proposal, according to a report from E&E News. In his first address to employees, however, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told employees he plans a “fight” over the suggested budget.
“I’m not happy, but we’re going to fight about it and I think I’m going to win at the end of the day,” Zinke said.