Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

Biden Proposes Major Spending Boost for Civilian Agencies in Fiscal 2022

The administration is requesting a 16% increase in non-defense discretionary funding to harness the government's power to solve multiple crises.

Administration officials on Friday released a 58-page outline of President Biden’s fiscal 2022 federal budget proposal, which includes a whopping 16% increase in non-defense discretionary spending. The aim is to marshal the power of the government to solve some of the most pressing challenges the nation faces, including the pandemic, climate change and racial inequity.

Biden is proposing $769 billion for civilian agencies and $753 billion for national defense programs, a 1.7% increase over fiscal 2021 defense spending. The budget request is “complementary, but separate” from Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan released last week, an administration official said on Friday morning during a briefing about the administration’s plan. The full budget proposal will be released in the coming months. 

“America is confronting four compounding crises of unprecedented scope and scale all at the same time,” Shalanda Young, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote to the leadership of the House and Senate Appropriations and Budget committees, referring to the coronavirus pandemic, economic recession, reckoning on racial inequities and increasing threat of climate change. “This moment of crisis is also a moment of possibility,” she said.

Some of the key features of the budget include:

  • Improving preparation for the next public health crisis by giving the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the largest budget request ($8.7 billion) in almost 20 years; 
  • Launching the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health within the National Institutes of Health ($6.5 billion) for federal research on cancer and other diseases; 
  • Increasing spending across all agencies (over $14 billion) to tackle climate change and environmental justice;
  • Increasing spending ($209 million) for the Justice Department’s various divisions to prosecute hate crimes, support police reform, enforce voting rights, provide mediation and conciliation services for conflicts that arise from discriminatory practices and more;
  • Spending an “historic” $1 billion for the Justice Department’s Violence Against Women programs (almost double fiscal 2021 spending), which includes funding for new programs to protect transgender people and support women at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges and Universities; and 
  • Furthering Biden’s previous initiatives “to leverage federal procurement to support quality jobs and American manufacturing, as well as efforts to advance equity in federal contracting and procurement.” 

The 58-page budget document offers a summary of the president’s budget goals, specific funding requests for major agencies and top-line spending levels. “The president’s forthcoming budget will include major, complementary mandatory investments and tax reforms as part of a comprehensive, fiscally responsible plan to meet the nation’s challenges,” it said. 

For the first time in 10 years there will be no spending caps. Such restrictions, in a large part, contributed to severe underinvestment “in core public services, benefits and protections,” factors that contributed to the inadequate public health infrastructure ahead of the pandemic, said the budget documents.

The budget blueprint represents a strong contrast to President Trump’s fiscal 2021 budget request, which sought to “resize” the federal government by eliminating what his administration viewed as duplicative and wasteful programs. 

During a briefing on Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said there was some “impactful intransigence from the outgoing political appointees,” during the transition, which contributed to the delay in the release. “We had some cooperation from the career staff, but we didn’t have all of the information that we needed.” 

Another factor, until recently, was the absence of a confirmed OMB leader. Young was installed as the acting leader on March 24 after being confirmed as OMB deputy director, replacing OMB career staffer Rob Fairweather, who had served as acting director since Biden’s inauguration. 

Presidents Trump, Obama, George W. Bush and Clinton released details of their first budgets in some form from February 17 to March 16 in their first terms, Roll Call reported. Although Biden has fallen behind on this timeline, he signed his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan into law on March 11 and shortly thereafter released the administration’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan.