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Federal Eye
Posted at 05:00 PM ET, 04/12/2011

What’s getting cut in the FY 2011 budget?


The Capitol building stands in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, April 8, 2011. (Andrew Harrer - BLOOMBERG)

Updated 5:11 p.m.:

Lawmakers and the White House have come to an agreement on the federal budget for fiscal 2011. The bill, which contains roughly $38 billion in cuts, means slashes in spending for a number of government departments and agencies.

Details regarding the budget cut amounts continue to emerge. The Post’s Philip Rucker has the story. We detail agency-by-agency cuts, as we know them:

The House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) has released a summary of the continuing resolution that would keep the budget funded through September 2011, as well as a list of the key cuts that would be implemented. The original bill text has also been released.

An important note about these figures: The documents released by the House Appropriations Committee detail the amount in cuts relative to two different figures: the first being the amount allotted in the fiscal 2010 budget as passed by Congress, and the second being the amount requested by the president in his fiscal 2011 budget request. Below, we detail the departments and agency cuts relative to the amount they were allotted by Congress to spend in fiscal 2010.

DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT

The resolution would cut $942 million from the funds enacted in fiscal 2010 for the Community Development Fund, which includes block grants designed to help rehabilitate housing and invest in primarily low-income neighborhoods.

Another $456 million would be slashed from the Public Housing Capital Fund, a source of funding that public housing authoritiesthroughout the country use to maintain and repair everything from roofs to boilers in their housing units.

The HOPE VI program, which aims to revamp severely distressed public housing and replace it with mixed income communities,would lose $100 million.

CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION

A new public database of consumer product safety complaints which had been targeted for extinction by Republicans emerged unscathed from budget negotiations over the continuing resolution. The Consumer Product Safety Commission would continue to operate the Web site www.saferproducts.gov, which went live in March. 

The $3 million searchable database accepts safety complaints from virtually anyone who can provide details about a safety problem connected with any of the 15,000 different kinds of consumer goods regulated by the CPSC. When the agency receives a complaint, it notifies the manufacturer, which has 10 days to respond before both the complaint and the response are posted on the database. 

The database was required as part of a sweeping consumer law passed by Congress in 2008, as a way to give consumers better, faster information about safety risks associated with everyday products. Congress took the action after a record number of consumer product recalls in 2007, many of them imported products aimed at children.   

The CPSC already collects reports of defective products from a wide range of sources, including consumers, health-care providers, death certificates and media accounts. But most of that information had been shielded from public view - the only way for consumers to access it was to file a public-records request with the CPSC. And that could take time - the agency is required by law to consult with the manufacturer before releasing information about products, and the company can protest or sue to stop disclosure. If the agency thinks a dangerous product should be pulled from the market, it must negotiate a recall with the manufacturer, a process that can take weeks or months. Meanwhile, unwitting shoppers may continue to buy the item. 

"The whole idea is to provide more useful information, faster, to consumers," said Rachel Weintraub of the Consumer Federation of America. 

But major manufacturing groups say the database is ripe for abuse, and that bad actors can ruin brand names by posting inaccurate information about products. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) sponsored a bill that passed the House in February to defund the database, and he unsuccessfully pushed to attach it as a policy rider to the continuing resolution to fund the government. "There are a lot of competing interests and it got knocked out," Pompeo said.. 

But Pompeo is not declaring defeat. He and other Republicans want to amend the 2008 consumer law and change the rules governing the database to allow fewer people to file complaints, give manufacturers more time to respond and require the CPSC to more carefully vet the reports before posting them.   

Since the database was launched, the CPSC has received more than 600 complaints and found 44 were inaccurate, CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson said. Of those, most were cases where the complaint misidentified the manufacturer and the agency did not post those erroneous complaints on the website, he said. The agency is getting about 30 complaints a day, he said. It is designed to handle only safety complaints, not gripes about reliability or performance.

The continuing resolution does include a provision that directs the Government Accountability Office to study how the database is functioning and report back to Congress within 180 days.

THE NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

The National Science Foundation would take a cut of $53 million over last year’s budget of $6.9 billion, which means it would fund 134 fewer grants to outside researchers than it did in fiscal year 2010, said agency spokeswoman Maria Zacharias. That cut would translate to a loss of NSF support for 1,500 researchers and support personal, she said.  

But advocates for science and technology research expressed relief that the new budget would sustain most federal science programs at current funding levels rather than cutting them deeply as House Republicans had proposed earlier. Funding for NASA and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (part of the Department of Commerce) would remain flat.

“The worst that we had anticipated did not come to pass,” said Michael Lubell, spokesperson for the American Physical Society, a science advocacy group. Lubell said that the previous Republican budget proposal for fiscal year 2011, known as H.R. 1, “would have forced tens of thousands lay-offs” at federal research sites.

While sparing science from deep cuts, the new budget would derail plans laid out by President Obama last year to double funding for NSF, NIST, and the Department of Energy’s office of science over five years.

“The message is that there isn't going to be a ramped up investment in science like there is in other countries right now,” said Mary Woolley, president of the advocacy group Research!America.

The NASA budget contains funding for two contentious items – a new space capsule and a heavy-lift rocket. A press release from the Senate Appropriations Committee states Congress is “holding NASA’s feet to the fire” to build the Orion crew capsule and a new heavy rocket. In 2009, Obama canceled the Orion capsule, which had been part of George W. Bush’s plan to return to the moon. But last April, Obama relented and agreed to fund the new capsule and rocket.

THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

The Women, Infants and Children program - which provides food and infant formula to low-income families- would receive $504 million less than it did last year. Funding to assist farmers and ranchers to develop conservation plans would be cut by more than $300 million. Rehabilitation programs for fragile watershed areas would be cut by $165 million and wetlands protection programs would lose $176 million.

Another $323 million would be cut from research programs that do everything from predict America’s consumption trends to develop alternative energy sources using agricultural by-products.

DEPARTMENTS OF COMMERCE, JUSTICE & SCIENCE

The Justice Department would absorb nearly $1 billion in cuts, but those cuts are not expected to have a significant impact on the department's core counterterrorism or law enforcement functions, budget documents show. 

State and local law enforcement agencies would take the biggest budgetary hit, with $415 million cut from Justice's assistance programs to those agencies and $296 million removed from the federal COPS program, which helps local police develop crime-fighting strategies and technology. Police chiefs nationwide have said they are already cutting officers and police units to cope with the effects of the economic downturn. 

“The department will be able to maintain its core national security and law enforcement functions under this 2011 budget,’’ said Jessica Smith, a Justice Department spokeswoman. “But in these tight economic times, the budget does affect our ability to fund a number of key programs, to enhance the department’s technology, and to provide state and local assistance.’’

Some cuts that impact the Justice Department more directly had already been proposed by the Obama administration. In its 2012 budget, for example, the administration proposed cutting $103 million from law enforcement wireless communication networks, saying that even with the reductions, 10,600 new radios would be issued to federal agents. The 2011 budget agreement would cut these networks by a similiar amount. 

The administration had also proposed for 2012 that nearly half of the funding be cut for the National Drug Intelligence Center, a Pennsylvania-based Justice Department component that provides anti-drug intelligence. The center, based in the hometown of the late Rep. John Murtha (D-Penn.), has long been criticized as duplicative of other agencies. The budget agreement slices its funding by $10 million. 

One Justice Department priority did suffer in the budget agreement: $148 million would be cut from programs to help juveniles avoid the criminal justice system. In a speech last month, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. called such programs "a moral issue. How we treat our children answers the question of who we are as a nation.''

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III has also expressed qualms about the only direct budgetary hit his agency took -- $133 million would be cut from construction. Officials said most of that would have funded renovations at the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia, including the building of a new dormitory.

 In congressional testimony last week, Mueller said the new facility would aid the FBI's ongoing transformation into an intelligence-gathering organization. "We need the additional building to augment that,'' he said. "...It goes back to, we were asked to build an intelligence capability in the bureau, which means now having 3,000 as opposed to 1,000 analysts and having to train those 2,000 additional analysts and setting up a training program. That means personnel, but it also means building expenses and costs.” 

But Mueller added that if the funding were not provided, "then we'll go along.'' 

THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

The Defense Department would be allocated $513 billion, a $5 billion increase from 2010 levels, making the Pentagon one of the few agencies to receive a boost in the budget bill. The legislation also includes an additional $157.8 billion for overseas contingency operations.

The budget allows for 1.43 million active duty and 846,200 reserve troops and would fully fund the 1.4 percent authorized pay raisefor military personnel. It also would provide hundreds of billions of dollars for operations and maintenance, procurement, research and development and health programs.

Despite the overall budget increase, the bill proposes cuts to more than 700 military programs, many a result of program terminations, delays or changes to policies since President Obama submitted his budget request in February 2010. Among the cuts is $2.16 billion from the development of an alternative engine for the Joint Strike Fighter.

THE STATE DEPARTMENT

The State Department would take an $8 billion hit, much of it in cuts to foreign aid. The biggest single loser would be the department’s Economic Support Fund, a key economic development tool that helps prop up fragile governments from South Asia to Africa. Hundreds of millions of dollars would be slashed from planned U.S. appropriations to the United Nations, USAID and the MillenniumChallenge Corporation. The Obama administration has pledged to use Millennium challenge money to spur economic developmentin fledgling Middle Eastern democracies..

Other programs facing massive cuts include the Peace Corps and programs to encourage educational exchanges and reduce the threat from weapons of mass destruction.

In March, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned lawmakers that deep cuts in foreign aid would harm national security by crippling U.S. efforts to break the back of the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and promote stable democracies in Iraq and the larger Middle East.

THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

The Department of Transportation would see a $2.9 billion decrease in funding. A spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration released the following statement:

Currently, the Federal Railroad Administration has $2 billion available for high-speed intercity passenger rail projects across America. The Obama Administration looks forward to working with states eager to build the foundation for a world-class rail network that will provide 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail in the next 25 years.  In FY 2010, Congress appropriated $2.5 billion for High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail.  The six-month CR contains $0 for high-speed rail in 2011 and rescinds $400 million of the funding appropriated for the program in FY 2010.  As a result, there is currently $2 billion in high-speed rail funding available, down from the $2.4 billion previously available. Last week, 24 states, the District of Columbia and Amtrak submitted 98 applications with funding requests totaling more than $10 billion. 

The budget measure contains no funding for high-speed rail in 2011, and would rescind $400 million from the $2.4 billion previously available in 2010 funding. Last week, 24 states, the District of Columbia and Amtrak submitted 98 applications with fundingrequests totaling more than $10 billion.

THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

The budget deal would make modest cuts to several Education Department initiatives, leaving overall funding $1.3 billion lower than last year, according to a summary of the bill released by a Senate committee. The bill would preserve the Pell Grant program, the largest source of need-based grants to college students, with the maximum grant remaining at $5,550. In a compromise, the bill would save an estimated $35 billion over 10 years by cutting an initiative called year-round Pell, which currently allows students to receive two separate grants if they attended college year-round. Obama had proposed the cut in his budget plan.

The bill would keep funding at $14.5 billion for Title I grants to school districts with needy students. House Republicans had proposed nearly $700 million in cuts, affecting an estimated 2,400 schools. The bill delivers $536 million for School Improvement Grants, which target Title I schools, $327 million more than House Republicans had proposed. The budget agreement would provide $700 million for Race to the Top, the administration’s signature initiative to spur reform in K-12 education. Obama had requested $1.3 billion.

THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

The measure would cut about 15 percent of the Environmental Protection Agency budget, decimating a program that provides money to states to reduce water pollution. Lawmakers in the House had sought to remove as much as 30 percent of the agency’s $9 billion budget, which would have been the largest cut in 30 years. But under the final bill, the EPA can move forward withplans to regulate greenhouse gas pollution at major power plants and other sources, and to enforce pollution restrictions affecting the Chesapeake Bay.

THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would receive $72.9 billion in discretionary funds as part of an overall appropriation for labor, health and education agencies that is 4 percent lower than last year’s.

The reductions would include a $17 million, or 5 percent, drop in federal funding for family planning services provided by groups such as Planned Parenthood Federation of America. However, many cuts would be to programs the president had already proposed scaling back or terminating in his budget for the 2012 fiscal year.

Similarly, while the budget deal would eliminate $600 million in discretionary funding for community health centers, the effect would be
lessened by the $1 billion in mandatory funds automatically directed
to such centers through the new health-care law adopted last year.
Indeed, the rise in mandatory spending required by the health-care
overhaul and other laws explains why HHS’s total budget will actually
increase by $14.9 billion over last year’s, reaching $573 billion.

Not all mandatory spending on health programs would remain intact. The deal would terminate $2.2 billion, or roughly one-third, of a $6 billion program in the health-care law to subsidize loans to civic and community groups that come together to form not-for-profit health insurance cooperatives.

Also on the chopping block: $3.5 billion in performance bonuses set
aside to reward states that make an extra effort to enroll eligible, low-income children in the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Since
the funds were made available in 2009, HHS has awarded $281 million
such bonuses. Administration officials could not immediately say how
much funding would remain for future bonuses after the cut. But they said most states were unlikely to qualify and they expected there would be sufficient funds available for those that did.

The new budget also would repeal a provision in the health-care law aimed at low income workers whose employers offer health-insurance plans with premiums so expensive--defined as between 8 to 9.8 percent of the workers’ income--they are effectively out of reach. Such workers are exempt from the law’s requirement that virtually everyone obtain
insurance. But they are not eligible for federal subsidies to help
them buy plans on state-run “exchanges”, or marketplaces, the law creates beginning in 2014. (Only workers whose employer-sponsored plans charge would cost at least 9.9 percent of their income qualify for the subsidies).

The “free choice voucher” provision would have allowed the estimated
300,000 workers and their families in this situation to request their employer’s health insurance contribution in the form of a voucher that
they could use towards buying a potentially more affordable plan on
the exchange. Since the provision would not have taken effect until 2014, it would have no impact on the 2011 budget.

THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

The Department of the Interior could soon be prohibited from enforcing rules that protect animals such as wolves. A plan to close millions of acres of western wilderness to development will likely be scrapped. A program that helps recover endangered species was slashed by $25 million, a 31 percent cut. And a wildlife grant that helps states manage at-risk species before they become endangered would be sliced by $28 million, also a 31 percent cut.

THE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY

Despite widespread anxiety among developers of alternative energy projects, the budget deal would not make cuts in an Energy Department program that provides loan guarantees to renewable energy, electric power transmission systems and biofuels projects that begin construction by Sept. 30, 2011.

Moreover, the Energy Department would be given an appropriation of $170 million to cover the credit subsidy that was, at least in theory, previously covered by fees charged to the recipients of the loan guarantees.

Department officials said there would be other “minor cuts,” including $140 million in research and development on fossil energy -- an area where the administration had already proposed cuts for fiscal year 2012. The deal is expected to trim $16.5 million from programs developing technology to capture carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants and $6.3 million from nuclear energy programs. Science programs are also expected to be cut by $15 million.

THE TREASURY DEPARTMENT, EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT & OTHER FINANCIAL SERVICES

The Treasury and the Executive Office of the President (EOP) accounts would see a decrease. But the bill includes a $13 million increase for the Inspector General of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to strengthen oversight of the TARP assets.

The bill would also slash positions as well as funding, eliminating four administration “czars:” The Health Care Czar, Climate Change Czar, Car Czar and Urban Affairs Czar.

THE SECURITIES & EXCHANGE COMMISSION

The Securities and Exchange Commission would receive a 7 percent increase in its budget. The bill provides $1.185 billion to the agency, an increase of $74 million above the 2010 levels.

Democrats were able to secure roughly $115 million more for the SEC’s budget than House Republicans had originally proposed. Democrats said the GOP proposal of $1.07 billion would have hampered the SEC’s ability to police the financial markets and enforce securities laws that are part of last year’s sweeping financial regulation overhaul.

DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

The Department of Homeland Security would escape major cuts with discretionary funding down two percent from the the 2010 budget, or $784 million. Officials stressed that all frontline operations, including Customs and Border Protection, the Coast Guard, the Secret Service and the Transportation Security Agency, would sustain staffing levels.

The bill would reduce FEMA first responder grants by $786 million, eliminate $264 million in funding that was previously targeted to earmarks, and rescind $557 million in balances from prior year funds.

The bill also includes just over $1 billion in additional discretionary funding for the costs of existing and expected disastersfor fiscal year 2011.

THE LEGISLATIVE BRANCH

Lawmakers took the hatchet to funding for their own branch with a cut of $103 million. Of that, the House would see $55 million in cuts to Member, Committee and Leadership office expenses.

VETERANS AFFAIRS

The Department of Veterans Affairs would lose about $400 million in funds, tied mostly to information technology contracts and construction projects. But the vast majority of the department’s budget is on a multi-year budget cycle and not impacted by this year’s cuts.

THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

The Department of Labor is set to lose $870 million for the rest of the fiscal year from job training and creation programs,community college curriculums for dislocated workers and a fund that aims to prepare workers for new green jobs.

Labor officials said the cuts, from the agency’s $13.4 billion 2010 budget, are severe but not nearly as big as the $5 billion reduction to labor programs in the budget approved by House Republicans in February.

The biggest hit to the Labor Department in the budget deal is $182 million to the $3 billion workforce investment program.This is a Clinton-area program that uses federal money to create state and local services in literacy, vocational education and welfare-to-work strategies for adults, young people and laid off workers.

By Washington Post Editors  |  05:00 PM ET, 04/12/2011

 
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