President Trump on Wednesday ordered Cabinet secretaries to develop a plan to cut 5 percent of their agencies’ budgets, saying the reductions would “get rid of the fat” in the federal government.
Trump made the request at a Cabinet meeting, saying that spending increases in his first two years were necessary to build up the military and achieve other goals. In reality, Trump has called for dramatic spending reductions at most federal agencies in both of his budget proposals. Congress has declined to go along with those proposals. Lawmakers have instead provided most agencies with funding boosts in fiscal years 2017 and 2018. The agencies that have already received full-year appropriations for fiscal 2019 are also seeing increases.
Trump suggested the cuts could result in reductions larger than 5 percent.
"Some will say, 'I can do much more than 5,' ” Trump said ahead of the Cabinet meeting. The reductions will enable agencies to “get rid of the fat, get rid of the waste,” he said, adding, "It'll have a huge impact."
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As the president has said in the past, his ultimate goal was to boost military spending, and he reluctantly went along with domestic funding increases to appease Democratic lawmakers. The White House attempted to rescind $15 billion in spending after Trump signed a two-year budget deal dramatically increasing funding caps, but Congress has declined to pass the rescissions.
Trump’s announcement came after his administration said this week that the federal deficit climbed to $779 billion in fiscal 2018, a 17 percent increase over the previous year. Shortly after taking office in 2017, Trump instructed agencies to identify 10 percent of their non-national security spending to cut.
Trump did not specify whether he will request the new round of cut proposals to take place immediately in fiscal 2019, which began on Oct. 1, or whether he will ask agency leaders to instead incorporate the cuts into their forthcoming fiscal 2020 budget proposals. Asked for clarification, Lindsay Walters, a White House spokeswoman, said only that the president is "serious about cutting spending, and that was the message he reiterated to his Cabinet today."
The fiscal 2020 blueprint is expected in February, though agencies are well into the annual back-and-forth process that takes place between their own leadership offices and the Office of Management and Budget.