Trump’s Budget Proposes Significant Cuts to Federal Agencies

President Trump has released his budget proposal for 2018. It calls for significant discretionary spending cuts in many agency budgets, but some agencies will see budget increases over 2017.

The Trump administration has released its first budget blueprint for fiscal year 2018, and it makes a number of suggested cuts (and some increases) to agency budgets. The primary focus, however, is to boost defense spending, so many of the cuts are a means to that end.

President Trump wrote in the foreword:

The defense and public safety spending increases in this Budget Blueprint are offset and paid for by finding greater savings and efficiencies across the Federal Government. Our Budget Blueprint insists on $54 billion in reductions to non-Defense programs. We are going to do more with less, and make the Government lean and accountable to the people.

Many other Government agencies and departments will also experience cuts. These cuts are sensible and rational. Every agency and department will be driven to achieve greater efficiency and to eliminate wasteful spending in carrying out their honorable service to the American people.

The budget also says one of its goals is to “make government work again,” and that agencies will be held accountable for improving performance while also “devoting a greater percentage of taxpayer dollars to mission achievement rather than costly, unproductive compliance activities.”

The budget proposal is an initial guideline to lay out the administration’s priorities. Ultimately, however, Congress must approve the final spending plan for the government.

President Trump recently signed an executive order directing OMB to develop a plan to cut waste in federal agencies, a precursor to the 2018 budget proposal.

The majority of federal spending is mandatory spending programs such as Medicare and Social Security, and this initial budget proposal does not make any changes to these programs. It instead makes suggested revisions to discretionary spending, much of which includes budgets for federal agencies. It notes, however, that later in the spring a full budget will be released which will include “specific mandatory and tax proposals,” such as infrastructure spending.

What follows are some of the highlights from the 2018 budget blueprint for selected agencies, and the entire budget document is included at the end of this post.

Agency Highlights

Department of Agriculture

The budget would fully fund the Food Safety and Inspection Service. It cuts funding in the National Forest System for “lower priority activities” such as major Federal land acquisition. It eliminates the duplicative Water and Wastewater loan and grant program, a savings of $498 million, reduces staffing at USDA’s Service Center Agencies, eliminates the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program, and reduces “duplicative and underperforming programs by eliminating discretionary activities of the Rural Business and Cooperative Service” (savings of $95 million).

Department of Commerce

The budget adds $100 million for the Census Bureau to prepare for the 2020 census. It would eliminate the following:

  • The Economic Development Administration (savings of $221 million)
  • The Minority Business Development Agency
  • $250 million in targeted National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grants and programs supporting coastal and marine management, research, and education including Sea Grant

It increases spending on the National Weather Service by over $1 billion to increase forecasting capabilities.

Department of Defense

Defense spending would be increased overall by $54 billion. The budget would repeal defense sequestration by restoring $52 billion to DoD, and another $2 billion to programs outside of DoD.

Department of Homeland Security

This agency would also see more funding to improve border security. Specifically, the budget includes $2.6 billion in high-priority tactical infrastructure and border security technology, which includes funds for building the border wall. It also proposes spending $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. (See Job Openings at Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection)

$1.5 billion would be spent on enforcement of immigration laws for “expanded detention, transportation, and removal of illegal immigrants.”

$1.5 billion would go towards strengthening computer networks in DHS to fund “activities that protect Federal networks and critical infrastructure from an attack.” The budget notes that the goal here is to improve cybersecurity tools to bolster information sharing with other agencies and the private sector to lead to faster responses to cybersecurity attacks directed at Federal networks and critical infrastructure.

User fees for the TSA and National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) would be restructured “to ensure that the cost of Government services is not subsidized by taxpayers who do not directly benefit from those programs.” However, the TSA’s passenger security fee would be increased to offset the other reductions. “Unauthorized and underperforming programs” at TSA would also be reduced to save $80 million, which includes reductions to the Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response program, and reaffirms TSA’s decision to eliminate its Behavior Detection Program.

State and local grant funding at FEMA would be reduced by $667 million.

Department of Justice

The FBI would see a $249 million increase in its budget to strengthen operations to combat terrorism and other law enforcement activities.

More funding would go towards immigration enforcement as well. $80 million would go towards hiring 75 additional immigration judge teams to bolster and more efficiently adjudicate removal proceedings. An additional 60 additional border enforcement prosecutors and 40 deputy U.S. Marshals would be hired, and 40 attorneys would be added to pursue Federal efforts to obtain the land and holdings necessary to secure the Southwest border and for immigration litigation assistance.

There would, however, be $700 million in agency budget cuts, including $210 million for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program.

State Department

The budget would eliminate the Global Climate Change Initiative and fulfill the President’s pledge to cease payments to the United Nations’ (UN) climate change programs by eliminating U.S. funding related to the Green Climate Fund and its two precursor Climate Investment Funds. It also reduces funding to the UN and affiliated agencies.

Funding would also be reduced for multilateral development banks, including the World Bank, by approximately $650 million over three years. However, $2.2 billion would go towards new embassy construction and maintenance in 2018.

Department of Transportation

Amtrak subsidies would be cut to focus resources on the parts of the passenger rail system that provide meaningful transportation options within regions., and it terminates Federal support for Amtrak’s long distance train services.

Federal Aviation Administration

The budget proposes to privatize the air traffic control system, spinning off the operations and putting them under an independent, non-governmental organization that aims to increase efficiency while maintaining the safety of air travel.

If this sounds familiar, it should. Congressman Bill Shuster (R-PA) introduced the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act (H.R. 4441) last year which put forth the same proposal. (See Legislation Would Privatize 30,000 Federal Jobs)

The National Association of Air Traffic Controllers (NATCA) came out in support of the bill, saying in a statement last year, “After extremely careful review, consideration, and deliberation, we have reached a decision: NATCA supports this bill.”

Internal Revenue Service

The budget says this about IRS:

[The budget] preserves key operations of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to ensure that the IRS could continue to combat identity theft, prevent fraud, and reduce the deficit through the effective enforcement and administration of tax laws. Diverting resources from antiquated operations that are still reliant on paper-based review in the era of electronic tax filing would achieve significant savings, a funding reduction of $239 million from the 2017 annualized CR level.

Department of Veterans Affairs

The budget provides a $4.6 billion increase to the VA’s overall budget for improving patient access and timeliness of medical care services for veterans. It also extends and funds the Veterans Choice Program.

Environmental Protection Agency

This is one agency that has been previously reported to be heavily targeted for cuts. The budget proposal would seem to confirm this. While it doesn’t provide a great deal of specifics, here are some of the key points.

Over 50 agency programs would be eliminated at a savings of $347 million. Among these are Energy Star; Targeted Airshed Grants; the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program; and infrastructure assistance to Alaska Native Villages and the Mexico Border.

It also would eliminate funding for specific regional efforts such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay, and other geographic programs at a savings of $427 million. It also eliminates funding for the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs, climate change research and partnership programs at a savings of $100 million.

However, the budget includes $2.3 billion for the State Revolving Funds, a $4 million increase, and $20 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program, equal to the funding over last year as part of the president’s call for boosting infrastructure spending.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

NASA would see some budget boosts such as $624 million for aeronautics research and development and $1.9 billion for the Planetary Science program. It also includes funding for a mission to repeatedly fly by Jupiter’s icy ocean moon Europa, and a Mars rover that would launch in 2020. $3.7 billion would go towards continued development of the Orion crew vehicle, Space Launch System, and associated ground system, to send American astronauts on deep-space missions.

However, NASA’s Office of Education would be eliminated at a savings of $115 million.

The table below shows the increases/reductions over the 2017 budget for some of the major federal agencies.

Table showing the FY 2018 budget highlights for major agencies and the increase or reduction over the 2017 federal budget

FY 2018 Budget Blueprint

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.