Trump Seeks ‘Historic’ Federal Spending Cuts to Boost Defense and Border Wall

Acting Office of Management and Budget director Russ Vought speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House March 11.

Acting Office of Management and Budget director Russ Vought speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House March 11. Evan Vucci/AP

Most agencies would see significant cuts; EPA, State and Transportation would be hardest hit.

Touting spending cuts “higher than any other administration in history,” the White House on Monday released documents describing its proposed $4.7 trillion budget for 2020, making good on its promise to slice funding by at least 5 percent for most agencies but boost investment in favored projects.

The budget materials released by the administration did not include the appendices, analytical perspectives and numerical breakdowns used by Congress, so many details of the administration's proposal are not yet known. Those documents are expected next Monday, an official with the Office of Management and Budget said.

But the broad outlines are clear: Winners in the document, titled “A Budget for a Better America: Promises Kept. Taxpayers First,” include multi-agency programs to build a wall along the border with Mexico (a requested $8.6 billion hike), veterans health care (a 10 percent hike) and opioid addiction research and prevention, including $44 million in distance learning and telemedicine grants, and $60 million in community facilities grants for treatment centers.

The defense budget—which in fiscal 2019 was given its largest hike in years, to $715 billion—would rise to $750 billion, mostly through the controversial shifting of some core budget items to the overseas contingency operations fund that is supposed to be reserved for active combat missions.

The National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—both part of the Health and Human Services Department—would receive $291 million for AIDS testing and medications.

In contrast, the budget calls for major cuts in the Environmental Protection Agency (31 percent); the State Department (23 percent); the Transportation Department (22 percent); the Interior Department (15 percent); and the Health and Human Services Department (12 percent), the budget document said.

Federal employees, mostly future ones, would see their retirement benefits cut, in part through increased employee contributions and elimination of supplemental retirement benefits, to bring the benefits “more in line with the private sector.”

Also, the proposed budget anticipates $327 billion in savings associated with welfare reforms—work requirements would be expanded in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), Medicaid and housing subsidy programs, a senior administration official told reporters Monday morning, with a “hardship exemption.” The programs should provide “a ladder of opportunity,” the official added. “Individuals age 19-65 are expected to work, or engage in job training or community engagement.”

The budget contains “more reduction than any president in history has ever proposed, in concert with the first two budgets,” the official said. With the national debt at $22 trillion, national interest is costing $400 billion in the current year, the official added in justifying the need for $1.9 trillion in savings and reforms over 10 years in “mandatory spending” outside the discretionary budget. The White House arranged the 5 percent cuts in discretionary accounts (which includes cancellations and rescissions that Congress is likely to reject) “as a total level, which allows us to make investments where we think is necessary, and greater reductions in other areas,” the official said.

An example of what the administration views as waste is in the area of foreign aid, the official said. The State Department has “85 cultural and exchange programs that have doubled since 2004” to $600 million. One million students a year come from across the world, “but only 1 percent come through this program,” the official said. “So it’s not unreasonable to ask Congress to go back to spending $300 million.”

A second example of inefficient spending cited is the Labor Department’s Job Corps, which, the official said, is “actually an unsafe program,” given reports of 14,000 security incidents at its 123 centers, 4,000 of them drug-related, including two homicides.

As part of the president’s management agenda, the budget promises $150 million in new information technology modernization to remedy continued reliance on “outdated technology and antiquated processes, which frustrates the American people and the federal workforce,” according to an Office of Management and Budget summary, which stressed a bipartisan strategy.

And, as it has in the past, the administration proposed $200 million in infrastructure spending on highways and other projects—declaring itself open to working with Congress on specifics “to get a package [the president] could sign."

At the macro-level, the administration projects a balanced budget in 15 years, rather than the usual 10, by ending “runaway spending,” a change the official justified by saying, “Unfortunately, Congress did not accept” many of its proposed cuts over the past two years, “so we have to do it in 15.”

The official said that shifting core defense funds to the overseas contingency operations fund was justified in the context of Congress continuing to enforce the budget caps from the 2011 Budget Control Act, which requires parity between defense and non-defense spending. “We think it’s important that the administration not be bound, and are signaling that the paradigm of 1 dollar for 1 dollar hasn’t for some time been affordable for this country.”

Asked to justify the steep cuts at EPA, the official said, “We believe that at $6 billion at a time of trillion-dollar deficits is affordable for the country. It allows us to protect the environment and fulfill our statutory responsibility for clear air and clean water.” The plan “does ask the states to step up,” he added, noting that the budget would eliminate many EPA regional programs.

Asked about the rising deficit that many link to the Trump Administration’s tax cuts codified in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the official said, “We don’t think tax cuts will lead to anything other than economic growth over 10 years. They will be paid for with our policies, and we will be proven right.”

Democrats in Congress were quick to pounce. “President Trump’s new budget would make children, seniors, and people with disabilities pay for his massive tax giveaways to billionaires and big corporations,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., a member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committees. “As he slashes funding to help working families, he includes billions of dollars more for his wall—on the heels of blowing up our deficit with the Republican tax law. This budget makes it clearer than ever where his priorities lie—in protecting millionaires and billionaires while cutting investments in health care, education, and the environment.”

Many critics on Capitol Hill commonly dismiss the president’s budget as “dead on arrival,” particularly now that Democrats hold the House majority. But Robert Greenstein, president of the liberal-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, told reporters on Friday that “would be a mistake. The budget is always important because it reflects the president and his administration’s vision of where they want to take the country,” he said. “It usually provides a road map of the types of policies they will put into effect through various tools, including executive orders and regulations.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.