The Great Lakes Legacy Act team remediates the wetlands below the former Zephyr Oil Refinery in Michigan in 2018. EPA is looking to add 1,900 employees in fiscal 2023 alone.

The Great Lakes Legacy Act team remediates the wetlands below the former Zephyr Oil Refinery in Michigan in 2018. EPA is looking to add 1,900 employees in fiscal 2023 alone. EPA file photo

These Are the 12 Most Significant Agency and Program Reforms in Biden's Budget

See how the president is prioritizing his proposed budget increases at nearly every agency in government.

President Biden on Monday put forward his second budget, including a range of proposals to reshape agency operations in his fiscal 2023 blueprint that would boost discretionary domestic agency funding by 9.5% over current levels.

Nearly every major agency would see a large spending increase, which in most cases the White House accompanied with initiatives to hire more employees. The federal workforce would grow by 3.6%, or 82,000 employees, under the proposal, which would bring the number of civil servants to its highest total since 1969. With those staffing additions, the Biden administration in many cases suggested shaking up how agencies deliver services or what parts of their missions they prioritize. 

The Commerce Department would receive the largest funding increase, largely to boost domestic manufacturing and dedicate more resources to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, followed by the Veterans Affairs Department as it aims to improve health care services for its 9 million patients. 

The chart below shows the proposed change in budget authority relative to spending Congress approved for fiscal 2021, as the White House used that benchmark due to its preparation of the 2023 document while 2022 funding was still being negotiated in Congress. The omnibus funding package Biden signed into law earlier this month included a nearly 7% increase for non-defense agencies, meaning the actual boosts under Biden’s plan compared to current spending levels are less. While every major agency would receive an increase compared to funding levels under the continuing resolutions in effect until the omnibus was enacted, Biden’s proposal for the departments of Homeland Security and Transportation, for example, would actually mark slight cuts relative to their current funding under the recently passed omnibus. 

Here is a look at some of the most significant changes and priorities outlined in the White House’s document. Unless otherwise noted, all funding increases referenced below are relative to fiscal 2021. 

Investments in Law Enforcement: The Biden administration stressed that it is investing in federal law enforcement, anchored by $17.4 billion in spending on the Justice Department’s officers and agents. That would mark an 11% increase, much of which would go for agencies like the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service to focus on violent crime. The Bureau of Prisons would receive $151 million to hire more personnel, including a major investment in front-line correctional officers. The Transportation Security Administration is asking for a 30% funding boost to increase pay for its officers. The administration is also looking to ramp up accountability of the officers, with Justice and agencies across government, ranging from DHS to the Interior Department, requesting funds to purchase body-worn cameras for their officers. BOP is also asking for $100 million to expand its workforce development programs for inmates. 

Climate Resiliency: Following Biden’s call for agencies to become carbon-neutral over the coming decades, nearly every agency pledged to invest in efforts to combat and adapt to climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking to grow its workforce by 13%, looking to add 1,900 employees in fiscal 2023 alone. The White House said that “staffing reductions under the previous administration continue to impact the agency’s ability to carry out its mission to protect human health and the environment.” The budget proposes that the Energy Department spend $9.2 billion on clean energy research and development, a 33% increase, and $2.1 billion on clean infrastructure projects. Interior would spend $5 billion on climate adaptation and resilience. The State Department is looking to stand up a Center for Climate Diplomacy and to hire climate diplomats. The National Science Foundation is planning to dole out $500 million on climate research. 

Asylum and Refugee Processing: As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is creating another refugee crisis, the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement is requesting $6.3 billion. That would nearly triple the agency’s budget from 2021. The Biden administration has pledged to resettle 125,000 refugees in 2023. The resettlement office received a large boost of emergency funding last year to assist Afghan evacuees. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, meanwhile, would see yet another funding windfall. The White House proposed $765 million in discretionary funding, doubling what it received in the fiscal 2022 omnibus—which itself tripled what the largely fee-funded USCIS received in fiscal 2021. The total would allow USCIS to add 1,500 employees from its estimated staffing level this year, and 3,000 from 2021. The employees would allow the agency to address backlogs for asylum claims, work authorizations, naturalizations and other immigration benefit cases. It would also assist in refugee processing. 

Border Security: After Democrats for years blocked the Trump administration from dramatically increasing the Border Patrol workforce, Biden is asking for funding to bring on 300 new agents. The administration is also looking to hire 775 Customs and Border Protection officers to beef up staff at ports of entry and address other needs. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would gain 530 officers to expand the “alternatives to detention” program. Elsewhere in the immigration realm, the Biden administration is seeking a whopping 80% funding boost for Justice’s Executive Office of Immigration Review to help address a 1.5 million case backlog. It would hire 100 new judges and is seeking $4.5 billion over the next decade to provide representation to individuals with cases before the court.  

Boosting IRS: Since its early days the Biden administration has lamented longstanding cuts and workforce reductions at the Internal Revenue Service, and it is seeking to reverse that trend with an 18% funding increase relative to fiscal 2021. IRS is looking to hire 4,500 employees for enforcement and the budget plan also seeks about $800 million to improve customer service. The administration has sought to surge resources to IRS through other legislative packages, but those have all flamed out. Congress provided a 6% increase and direct hire authority to the agency in the fiscal 2022 spending package, but it is currently employing mandatory overtime and reassignments to address a crisis of backlogged tax returns.

Rebuilding Interior: The White House also bemoaned that Interior has hit a 10-year low in its workforce. Its new proposed funding would allow the department to “rebuild core functions and capabilities,” including at the U.S. Geological Service, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management. Interior is looking to hire 5,000 employees in fiscal 2023. 

Justice and Equity: Agencies across the Biden administration pledged to devote resources to building equity through their delivery of services. Interior requested $3 billion for the Justice40 initiative, which ensures at least 40% of federal dollars go toward historically disadvantaged communities. Justice asked for $1.4 billion to stand up an Office of Environmental Justice, while EPA proposed spending $1.5 billion for its efforts in that area. EPA requested another $100 million for a new air quality program in underserved communities, while the Transportation Department vowed to ensure it equitably invests infrastructure dollars in those areas. 

Infrastructure: The budget request spelled out how the Transportation Department will spend some of the cash windfall Congress authorized last year. That would include a 64% funding increase for the Federal Transit Administration, about half of which would come from the infrastructure bill, to build new “high-quality transportation corridors.” The Federal Railroad Administration would receive $17.9 billion, more than quintupling its normal funding.  

Revamping the Indian Health Service: The Biden administration wants to overhaul how the Indian Health Service is funded, shifting it from the annual headaches that accompany discretionary funding to the mandatory side of the budget. It would receive a 43% funding increase in fiscal 2023, with its budget growth thereafter automatically commensurate with the growth of health care costs. The health service just received nearly $100 million for staffing at new facilities, and $259 million to build those facilities. That followed a $240 million surge for hiring stemming from COVID-19 relief funds. The new funding stream would “improve access to high quality healthcare, rectify historical underfunding of the Indian Health system, eliminate existing facilities backlogs, address health inequities, and modernize [the agency's] electronic health record system,” the White House said. 

Public Health Research: Congress just authorized Biden’s proposed Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, or ARPA-H, and provided $1 billion to stand up the new office within the National Institutes of Health. The president is now looking to significantly ramp up the new office, requesting $5 billion for the new health research agency in its second year. The budget plan also requested a 40% increase in public health funding at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and for state and local agencies. 

Federal Firefighting: After just receiving a funding boost to increase its year-round staffing level, through both new hires and conversion of seasonal positions, the Forest Service requested $4.9 billion for fire management. It is looking to grow its firefighter workforce by 3,200 employees after also receiving nearly $500 million as part of the infrastructure bill. The Interior Department is looking to grow its wildfire prevention and response efforts by 38%, while EPA is aiming to invest $13 million. 

USDA hiring: The Agriculture Department is looking to grow its workforce outside the Forest Service as well, and the budget proposed it add more employees than almost any agency. The plan decried and vowed to reverse staffing cuts at USDA's core offices. The Food Safety and Inspection Service requested a 12.6% funding boost, saying more inspectors and public health veterinarians would create more flexibility that allows meat and poultry producers to better respond to demand. Rural Development proposed adding 600 employees, saying it has taken on new responsibilities and will not be able to deliver on them without more staff. The Forest Service, meanwhile, is looking to add a total of 7,000 workers. 

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