President’s Budget Sets New Federal Priorities

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By on March 16, 2017 in Agency News, Human Resources with 0 Comments

President Trump sitting at his desk writing a speech

The President’s budget proposal is entitled America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make American Great Again. It is now public.

While many federal employees and groups with an interest in specific federal programs will not be happy with the items targeted for elimination, the budget is not a big surprise. It generally follows promises made by President Trump during his election campaign.

The existing federal budget agreement expires on April 28th. Congress passed a short-term funding of the government in December after a protracted fight in the Senate. No doubt, there will be a difficult road ahead and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has already threatened a government shutdown over funding a border wall.

For an overview of the President’s budget proposal, see Trump’s Budget Proposes Significant Cuts to Federal Agencies.

Impact of President’s Budget on Washington, DC Area

If enacted as proposed, the budget would have an impact on wealth in the Washington, DC area. In 2014, the Washington area had six of the 10 wealthiest counties in the U.S. The average federal employee salary is about $112,000 and the lowest average federal salary in a state is $66,000.

The Washington Business Journal recently reported the proposed cuts in the federal budget could reduce DC-area home prices by almost 2 percent.

In response, Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney told reporters, “We did not write this budget with an eye toward what it would do to the value of your (DC area) condo….”

Perhaps with this in mind, Senior Executive Association President Bill Valdez noted in a statement that “…if we only look at the federal government in a vacuum, we neglect all the ways in which the federal government contributes directly and indirectly to national and local economies. About 85% of federal jobs are outside of the Washington, DC area. Federal job centers help to support state and local economies throughout the country….”

The statement cited economic impact of the government on Huntsville, Alabama (where Redstone Arsenal and a NASA facility are located) and Parkersburg, West Virginia where a Treasury Department agency is located.

Agencies Targeted for Elimination

A number of small agencies have been targeted for elimination. Most Americans probably did not know these agencies existed and do not know their mission. Every agency and program has advocates and interest groups. No doubt, at least some—perhaps many—of these agencies will survive with the debate about to ensue in Congress over the budget.

Here is a listing of agencies targeted for elimination:

  • African Development Foundation
  • Appalachian Regional Commission
  • Chemical Safety Board
  • Corporation for National and Community Service
  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting
  • Delta Regional Authority
  • Denali Commission
  • Institute of Museum and Library Services
  • Inter-American Foundation
  • U.S. Trade and Development Agency
  • Legal Services Corporation
  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation
  • Northern Border Regional Commission
  • Overseas Private Investment Corporation
  • United States Institute of Peace
  • United States Interagency Council on Homelessness
  • Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Primary Goals of Budget Proposal

The budget’s main focus is the $54 billion defense boost over budget caps under current law. It also highlights funding for a southern border wall. The funding also will be used for lawyers to obtain land along the border needed for the wall. Other funding in the budget reflecting campaign promises include more funding for school choice options, America’s nuclear arsenal, veterans’ health and treatment of opioid addiction.

Securing the Nation’s Borders

The President’s 2018 Budget requests $44.1 billion in discretionary budget authority for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This is a $2.8 billion (6.8 percent) increase from the 2017 level. The Budget would also allocate $4.5 billion in additional funding for programs to strengthen the security of America’s borders and enhance the integrity of the immigration system.

The budget would advance the President’s plan to strengthen border security and immigration enforcement. It calls for $314 million to recruit, hire, and train 500 new Border Patrol Agents and 1,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement law enforcement personnel in 2018, plus associated support staff. (See Job Openings at Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection)

The budget is also designed to secure U.S. borders by investing $2.6 billion in high-priority tactical infrastructure and border security technology. This includes funding to plan, design, and construct a physical wall along the southern border as directed by the President’s January 25, 2017 Executive Order. The stated goal is to strengthen border security and stemming the flow of people and drugs illegally crossing the U.S. borders. (See Executive Orders Call for Hiring 15,000 New Federal Employees)

Department of Defense

The largest increase in the budget would go to the Department of Defense (DoD).

The defeat of ISIS is a primary goal. It is designed to fund efforts to “strike ISIS targets, support our partners fighting on the ground, disrupt ISIS’ external operations, and cut off its financing.”

The budget proposal for DoD is designed to start rebuilding American Armed Forces. It would do this by addressing insufficient stocks of munitions, fill personnel gaps, deferred maintenance and modernization, cyber vulnerabilities, and degraded military facilities. The budget noted that “The military must reset war losses, address recapitalization and maintenance requirements, and recover from years of deferred investment forced by budget cuts.”

The proposal repeals defense sequestration by restoring $52 billion to DOD, as well as $2 billion to other national defense programs outside DOD. This is a $54 billion total increase for national defense discretionary budget authority above the sequestration level budget cap.

Impact of the President’s Budget

This is a slimmed down version of previous presidential budget proposals. Is is just over 50 pages in length. There were about 200 pages for President George W. Bush’s slimmed down budget and President Barack Obama’s was 130 pages.

If the budget were enacted as proposed, there will be a reduction in the number of federal employees in a number of agencies. Some of these agencies will have to take action to reduce the number of employees. Some of these reductions will be done through attrition. With the proposed changes in priorities, some agencies would have to run a reduction-in-force (RIF).

Impact on Agencies

The RIF process is a cumbersome, bureaucratic, time-consuming administrative nightmare. That is a personal opinion. I doubt anyone who has been through the process would disagree.

An agency is required to use the RIF procedures when certain events occur. These include an employee facing separation or downgrading because of a reorganization, lack of work, shortage of funds or an insufficient personnel ceiling.

The President’s budget does not indicate how agencies will implement significant changes. Presumably, agency management will make these decisions and, hopefully, are already preparing steps to be taken once a budget is finalized.

The Senior Executives Association (SEA) noted in its press release:

SEA encourages President Trump’s team to fully engage with career senior executives when implementing the Administration’s budget proposal to ensure that U.S. taxpayers continue to receive vital services while meeting the Administration’s goals. This is a very delicate balance that career senior executives are highly skilled at achieving and will avoid many potential missteps.

That is good advice. The process of change will not happen quickly and will undoubtedly be litigated. Many—even most—of the budget proposals will be changed in Congress. But, realistically, there are likely to be significant reductions of some kind for fiscal year 2018. Federal employees would be well advised to think and plan ahead.

© 2017 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ralph R. Smith.

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About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47

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