President Trump formally released his 53-page “America First” spending plan for fiscal 2018 Thursday morning calling for sharp increases in defense, homeland security, and veterans’ health care, as well as many tough offsetting cuts in government departments, agencies and programs across a wide spectrum.
In seeking to make good on his campaign pledges to bulk up the military, destroy ISIS and other terrorist threats and crack down on millions of illegal immigrants, Trump is seeking a $54 billion increase for the Department of Defense and billions more for border security and construction of a wall. At the same time, Trump would slash spending on foreign aid and gut scores of domestic programs and agencies. The State Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Labor were among the hardest hit.
Trump’s spending plan for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 is focused exclusively on the one-third of the roughly $4 trillion annual federal budget that goes for discretionary programs and general government operations. A more comprehensive budget plan including Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs that are the main drivers of the deficit will be released by the administration later this spring.
Moreover, the spending document released today is only the president’s opening bid in what is likely to be a contentious budget debate in Congress this year. The Republican-controlled Congress will have the final say on spending priorities, including whether to lift legal caps to accommodate all the additional defense spending. Some lawmakers, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), have predicted that some of Trump’s more draconian spending cuts would be “dead on arrival” on Capitol Hill.
Nonetheless, Trump’s spending proposals can’t be ignored, and they will play an important role in determining budgetary policy in the coming year. Here is a list of five of the biggest winners and losers in Trump’s budget blueprint:
- Department of Defense – 10% increase. As part of Trump’s call to rebuild the U.S. military from stem to stern, the president is seeking a base budget of $574 billion in fiscal 2018, up $53 billion from the current year. The administration is also seeking an additional $65 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations.
- Department of Homeland Security – 6.8% increase. With a major focus on border security and cracking down and deporting illegal immigrants, Trump has requested $44.1 billion in the coming year, an increase of $2.8 billion. The department will hire 500 new border patrol agents and 1,000 new immigration and customs agents. It will also begin planning for construction of a nearly 2,000-mile wall along the southern border.
- Department of Veterans Affairs – 6% increase. Trump complained that the Obama administration didn’t do enough to help veterans receive adequate health care coverage and benefits. He is requesting $78.9 billion, or $4.4 billion more than the current level. He is also seeking $3.5 billion to fund the Veterans Choice Program to assure veterans can obtain prompt medical services.
- Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration – 11.3% increase. The Energy Department has major responsibility for the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile. Trump is seeking $13.9 billion, or $1.4 billion more than this year. The administration wants to revive the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada.
- Social Security Administration –0.2% increase. Few tasks are more politically important than getting out Social Security checks on time. But Trump’s budget is so tight outside of spending on national security and defense matters that the Social Security Administration was lucky to escape with a minuscule increase. The president has requested $9.3 billion, just a fraction more than this year’s spending level.
- Environmental Protection Agency – 31% decrease. Trump campaigned vowing to dismantle the EPA and its climate change regulations that have adversely impacted the coal industry and energy production. The EPA is being hammered more than any other agency and would receive only $5.7 billion, down $2.6 billion from this year. Trump would eliminate more than 50 programs and 3,200 jobs.
- Department of State and USAID – 29% decrease. The administration insists that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shouldn’t take it personally, but it may be hard for the former ExxonMobil CEO to swallow this humiliating cut. The White House budget office says the lion’s share of the cuts will be in foreign aid, with only a small part related to diplomacy. But there would also be sharp reductions in UN peacekeeping activities and climate change programs. Trump is asking for $25.6 billion, down $10.1 billion from this year.
- Department of Agriculture – 21% decrease. Looks like farmers aren’t among Trump’s favorites. The president has requested $17.9 billion, down $4.7 billion this year.
- Department of Health and Human Services—18% decrease. HHS is in the cross hairs of the Trump administration because it has been responsible for running the Obamacare program and other health care policies. Trump requested $69 billion, down $15.1 billion from this year. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) which is part of HHS would lose $5.8 billion for research grants.
- Department of Housing and Urban Development – 13.2% decrease. Trump repeatedly voiced concern about the plight of blacks in decaying and crime-ridden urban areas, but that wasn’t reflected in his budget request that would result in deep cuts in housing vouchers and community development programs. Trump requested $40.7 billion, down $6.2 billion of this year.
There are plenty of other casualties in the Trump budget. For example, the administration is seeking to eliminate funding for nearly 20 other long-standing and popular programs, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Legal Services Corporation, and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.