These Are the 11 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 unveiled nearly across-the-board spending surges in his fiscal 2024 budget request on Thursday, signaling that the White House is looking to aggressively fund its key priorities and shoving aside criticisms from the congressional Republicans who are promising to fight to reduce federal spending next year.
On some issues, such as border security and addressing crime, Biden took pains to address his detractors. He doubled down, however, on topics ranging from increasing legal migration to mitigating climate change that will surely draw ire from the new House majority. White House officials on Thursday acknowledged the blueprint was only the starting point in negotiations.
“This is the start of a healthy dialogue,” Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young said. “When you look at this president's view of the world and what his budget put forward, it shows you what he values. And that’s what this is going to be about, and we’re happy to have that debate with anybody.”
While Republicans have in recent years demanded parity in defense and non-defense spending increases, Biden requested a much smaller 3.3% increase to discretionary defense spending over 2023 enacted levels, compared to 6.5% for non-defense discretionary spending (including Veterans Affairs medical expenses). Young added the non-defense increase is the same as Congress approved in the fiscal 2023 omnibus funding bill and it should approve the same level again. The White House estimated its budget would decrease the deficit by $3 trillion over 10 years, primarily by raising taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations.
The only major agencies that would see a funding decrease under Biden’s blueprint are the Homeland Security Department (which does not account for a nearly $5 billion contingency fund, explained below), the Transportation Department (which saw its funding spike in fiscal 2023 due to a one-time $1.8 billion appropriation from Congress) and the Small Business Administration.
Here is a look at some of the most significant changes and priorities outlined in the White House’s document.
Customer Service: President Biden’s budget placed a renewed focus on improving delivery of government services. Nine agencies—the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security, Interior, Labor, Treasury and Veterans Affairs, as well as the Small Business Administration and the Social Security Administration—are looking to stand up or significantly expand customer experience offices. That will include the hiring of 120 new, full-time employees focusing on customer service. Various agencies will test new customer service initiatives, such as the Transportation Security Administration deploying customer experience professionals at airports.
Aviation: The Federal Aviation Administration would receive $25 billion in fiscal 2024, including $5 billion from the infrastructure law. That would include a 17% surge to improve facilities and systems. After the fiscal 2023 omnibus funded the hiring of 1,500 new air traffic controllers, Biden is seeking appropriations to hire another 1,800 next year. “The hiring and training surge will streamline the path for controller training while further increasing resiliency to serve high demand markets as air traffic increases to pre-pandemic levels,” FAA said.
Worker Protection: Overall, the Labor Department would see an 11% increase over fiscal 2023. Labor’s worker protection agencies would double that rate with a 22% spike. During the Trump administration, those agencies lost 14% of their staff, which the department said in its budget documents has “left workers less safe on the job.” As a candidate, Biden vowed to restore Labor’s capacity to conduct workplace investigations. The new funding would allow the department to “conduct the enforcement and regulatory work needed to ensure workers’ wages and benefits are protected, address the misclassification of workers as independent contractors, and improve workplace health and safety.” The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is looking to grow its workforce by 21%, while the department’s Wage and Hour Division is expecting 26% growth.
Addressing Immigration Backlogs: President Biden is once again seeking a historic increase to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration service, looking to more than triple the total funding the agency received in the fiscal 2023 omnibus. Congress rejected Biden’s request to reconfigure USCIS’ funding last year, leaving it as a primarily fee-funded agency. The administration had sought to significantly ramp up hiring at the agency to address backlogs for asylum claims, work authorizations, naturalizations and other immigration benefit cases. The Health and Human Services Department is requesting $7.3 billion for its Office of Refugee Resettlement, a 14% bump as it seeks to come closer to hitting Biden’s 125,000 refugee cap in fiscal 2024. The administration did not come close to reaching the same goal in 2022. Finally, the Justice Department is asking for a whopping 66% increase to its immigration court system—the Executive Office of Immigration Review—to address the 1.8 million case backlog. The immigration review office would add 150 new judges and support staff and begin offering legal representation for immigrants who need it.
Ramping Up Border Security: The Biden administration is proposing a new means to support the ebbs and flows of migration patterns, aiming to create a $4.7 billion southwest border contingency fund. The money would go to Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, with the account growing annually as certain thresholds of migration are hit. If enacted, the Homeland Security Department would see a 9% funding boost. After Congress funded the first increase of Border Patrol agents in the fiscal 2023 omnibus, the budget would support 350 new agents in fiscal 2024 and 460 processing assistants. Biden has pushed to demonstrate he is aggressively addressing border security as migrant encounters continue to spike and Republicans have blasted his approach, though overall the Homeland Security Department would see its discretionary funding decrease by 1%.
Antitrust: Biden is requesting a “historic” investment in the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, looking to triple the funding for the typically primarily fee-funded component. The administration has pursued an aggressive antitrust agenda, much of which has been spearheaded by Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan.
Federal Manufacturing Support: Several agencies are set for a funding infusion under the continued implementation of the 2022 Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) and Science Act, which is set to jump by 35% to $25 billion in spending in fiscal 2024. The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Industrial Technology Services is looking for a 77% increase to improve innovation in the manufacturing space. NIST is seeking to double funding for its research component and is set to receive another $1 billion from the CHIPS Act.
New Veterans Fund: After signing the PACT Act into law last year, which opens up Veterans Affairs Department care and benefits to as many as 5 million veterans, the Biden administration is looking to quadruple funding for the toxic exposure fund to $20 billion. Overall VA medical spending is increasing by just 2% and the entire VA budget request would be bumped by 5% to $325.1 billion. That would mark a much smaller rate than VA has requested in recent years when the figure was typically in double figures, but department officials said on Thursday it has carryover funds available. They added the budget would fund higher pay rates and other incentives as VA looks to grow its workforce to support its widening patient pool.
Revamping EPA: The Environmental Protection Agency would see the single largest increase of any federal agency, with the White House requesting a 19% spike. The agency would add a remarkable 2,400 employees, marking a 16% increase from 2022, which the White House said was necessary to offset staffing reductions under the previous administration that “continue to undermine the agency’s ability to carry out its mission.”
Climate Science and Clean Energy: The blueprint sets aside $5 billion at EPA to directly address the climate crisis. All told, the budget sets aside $16.5 billion for climate science and clean energy. The departments of Interior and Commerce, as well as NASA and the National Science Foundation, are among the agencies that would receive climate research funding. The Energy Department’s Office of Science is set to receive $8.8 billion by way of the CHIPS Act. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would triple its investment in supporting offshore wind production, while it is requesting to boost spending on its weather satellites by 23%. The White House is asking for $23 billion for climate resilience, spread between the departments of Interior, Agriculture, Homeland Security and Defense. The spending would go toward prevention and mitigation of floods and wildfires, as well as improving response capacity, including boosting pay and retention efforts for federal firefighters.
Two Agendas on Law Enforcement: In one part of the budget, Biden emphasized the need to increase both federal and local police presence. He is looking to ramp up the Justice Department’s law enforcement spending by 7%; increase staffing at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; hire 130 new U.S. Attorneys to prosecute violent crimes; and provide grants to support 100,000 state and local police hires. Elsewhere, he is requesting a 33% boost to Justice’s Office of Civil Rights to investigate local police forces for malfeasance and to protect voting rights. He is also seeking $409 million to implement the First Step Act, a criminal justice reform measure signed into law under President Trump, in part to hire dedicated federal personnel to oversee those efforts.