Impacts of the White House budget

 

(Charles Dharapak/AP)
(Charles Dharapak/AP)

Below is a breakdown of how the White House’s 2014 budget proposal would impact various government agencies and programs. The Federal Eye will update this list throughout the day as analyses roll in from various Washington Post beat reporters.

Agriculture Department

Wednesday’s budget would provide $22.6 billion dollars in discretionary spending to the Department of Agriculture, similar to the amount the agency received in the 2012 budget enacted by Congress.

The White House proposal includes a series of cost-saving measures at the USDA in coming years, including eliminating direct farm payments, decreasing crop insurance subsidies and targeting conservation programs.

But it also proposes new investments in renewable energy and rural development, such as $4 billion in loans to rural electric cooperatives and utilities to support the transition to clean energy. It also includes increased funding for high-priority research topics such as nutrition and obesity, food safety, sustainable agriculture and climate change.

The president’s budget also proposes a continued steady level of funding for the USDA’s supplemental nutrition programs, the food assistance safety net that a growing number of Americans have turned to in recent years. More than 47 million people currently benefit from the agency’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and the budget proposal says funding for such programs should remain “at a time of continued need.”

– Brady Dennis

Defense

The most striking part of Obama’s proposed $526.6 defense budget request is that it fails to acknowledge the prospect that sequestration will remain in effect beyond this year.

As such, analysts warned, it’s little more than a starting point for what is likely to be a protracted and heated negotiation. Travis Sharp, a fellow with the Center for a New American Security called it a “placebo, a placeholder with no effect.”

The proposed budget calls for a small decrease in overall spending, projecting cuts to the military’s expensive health care system and some costly weapons programs.

The Pentagon said the budget is in line with White House priorities including a robust focus on the Asia-Pacific region and greater investment in cyber security.

“Even while restructuring the force to become smaller and leaner and once again targeting overhead savings, this budget made important investments in the president’s new strategic guidance,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a written statement issued today.

Ernesto Londoño

Education 

The president wants to boost discretionary spending for the Department of Education by 4.6 percent, to $71.2 billion. That’s in addition to $14.5 billion the federal government gives to states to help educate poor children and another  $11.6 billion sent to states to pay for the schooling for disabled students.

Obama is proposing several new initiatives aimed at expanding pre-school to all low and moderate income four-year-olds, improving high school and streamlining federal programs that support education in science, technology, engineering and math. He wants to expand on the competitive grants that have become a signature of his education policy, this time creating a college version of Race to the Top, which would award $ 1 billion in competitive grants to states that make college more affordable.

The budget calls for $300 million for a new program that would reward high schools that develop partnerships with employers and local colleges and redesign secondary education so that high school students are learning skills needed for careers and college.

In his State of the Union address, the president highlighted an example of this kind of re-engineered high school, P-TECH in New York City. A partnership between IBM, the City University of New York and the public school system, P-TECH is the nation’s first 9-14 school, where students can earn both a high school diploma and an associate degree. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) plans to open 10 more high schools in his state modeled after P-TECH.

The president wants to consolidate 90 programs that exist among 11 different federal agencies that are aimed at improving STEM education into one initiative managed by the Department of Education with help from the National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian Insitution.

The new, streamlined $180 million program would focus on four areas: K-12 instruction, undergraduate education, graduate fellowships and less formal educational activities that take place outside classrooms.

Lyndsey Layton

The Smithsonian Institution,  the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation would receive an infusion of money for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education.

That injection would come as part of an effort to consolidate various STEM programs scattered across the government.

NASA would lose $47.5 million in STEM money as part of this redistribution and consolidation. The budget proposal states that Obama wants to generate 100,000 new STEM teachers and a million more STEM graduates. “In order to improve STEM education outcomes and achieve these goals, the Budget includes a bold reorganization of Federal STEM programs that uses existing resources more effectively and in a more streamlined, consolidated way.”

Joel Achenbach

Environmental Protection

President Obama’s budget would provide $8.2 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency, a 3.5 percent cut from the agency’s 2012 funding.

EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe said the budget represents a $252 million increase from the $7.9 billion the agency has for fiscal year 2013 after sequestered funds are subtracted. About $176 million is targeted at greenhouse gas emissions and their impact, including $20 million to study effects on human and ecosystem health, he said.

The spending plan would “continue efforts to restore significant ecosystems” in places such as the Cheseapeake Bay, the Great Lakes and the Gulf Coast, according to the White House document.

The budget “reflects our firm commitment to keeping American communities across our country healthy and clean, while also taking into consideration the difficult fiscal situation and the declining resources of state, local and tribal programs,” Perciasepe said.

But it also would cut a loan fund that cities and states use to build clean water and sewage treatment infrastructure by $472 million, continuing a trend in that direction, according to Jon Scott, spokesman for Clean Water Action, an advocacy group.

“This is a serious blow. It will have a jobs impact. It will have a water quality impact,” he said. “But even more serious is enforcing the law…and that’s done by state agencies.”

The budget also would sharply decrease funding for a program that provides grants to reduce emissions from diesel engines, from $30 million in 2012 to $6 million in 2014.

“The Obama administration has clearly decided to declare victory and walk away, even though by EPA’s own admission, there’s still a massive diesel pollution problem,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, a non-profit environmental group.

– Lenny Bernstein

Food and Drug Administration

The Food and Drug Administration would receive $4.7 billion in total resources under the White House budget proposal released Wednesday, up slightly from the $4.5 billion proposed last year. Nearly half of that funding – roughly $2 billion – would come from user fees from companies regulated by the FDA. Pharmaceutical firms typically pay the lion’s share of such fees, which are used to expedite drug evaluations.

The president’s budget also proposes new user fees to support the implementation of a landmark food safety law that Congress passed in 2010 after a string of deadly outbreaks linked to tainted foods. In addition, it sets aside $10 million in new resources to beef up the agency’s presences in foreign countries such as China, where the export of food and medical products to the United States has grown exponentially in recent years.

Brady Dennis

Health

As expected, this budget repeats previous proposals by Obama to cut Medicare and other health programs by about $400 billion over the next decade. The largest of these savings–about $123 billion over ten years–would come from requring drug makers to offer Medicare the same lower prices and rebates for prescription medications that they currently charge the Medicaid program.

Obama also wants to speed up a measure in the 2010 health-care law that already requires manufacturers to provide steadily larger drug discounts to Medicare enrollees through 2020. The additional savings would amount to $11 billion over ten years.

The budget would also increase Medicare premiums charged to higher income beneficiaries–for a savings of $50 billion over the next decade. Another big ticket item: slashing $81 billion out of the rates Medicare pays providers of “post-acute care” such as skilled nursing faciliites and hospitals, which the administration argues are often over-compensated.

Overall, the budget would provide the Department of Health and Human Services $80.1 billion in discretionary funding–only $3.9 billion more than the agency received last year.

But that relatively small change masks boosts to some programs and significant cuts to others.

On the plus side of the ledger are two measures with particular resonance in the wake of Newtown, Conn., school shootings: A new $130 million initiative to expand mental health services, including training for social workers and other professionals who work in schools; and an extra $30 million for programs that research ways to prevent violence.

On the chopping block: a grant for preventive health services and a program that helps low-income people pay their energy bills–reductions the administration described as “difficult trade-offs.”

– N.C. Aizenman

Housing and Urban Development

The Department of Housing and Urban Development would receive $47.6 billion in the proposed 2014 budget, an increase of more than 6 percent from that sought for 2013, and a 9.7 percent increase over the 2012 enacted level.

The White House says more than 90 percent of the requested funding is needed to maintain current levels of rental and assistance and aid for homeless families. It includes $37.4 billion to provide rental housing assistance to 4.7 million low-income families.

“It keeps residents in their homes,” HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said during a budget briefing Wednesday afternoon.

The budget also includes $2.4 billion to combat homelessness, including money for 10,000 new vouchers that are to be used to house homeless veterans. But Donovan warned that cuts in federal support have left many public housing authorities around the country unable to afford the administrative costs associated with the vouchers.

“What we’ve seen are housing authorities turning back vouchers,” Donovan said. “If you think about it, it’s a stunning turn of events.”

The budget would provide $3 billion for the Community Development Block Grant program, including $200 million in new funding to redevelop blighted properties and create jobs in communities hard hit by the foreclosure crisis.

– Steve Vogel

Interior Department

President Obama’s proposed budget for Interior would add muscle to controversial initiatives including a $13 million increase in funding for the U.S. Geological Survey to enhance preparations for climate change and enable water and wildlife managers to adapt to the effects of warming, such as sea-level rise.

In addition, the plan would provide more funding for what has become a pressing issue – crime on the nation’s most violent Indian reservations, where rape is pervasive.

Outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the president’s $12 billion budget proposal would help get the agency “out of a ditch” created by the sequester.

Salazar prefaced his remarks about the budget’s benefits by saying previous cuts had hampered the agency’s ability to issue ocean-drilling permits, to assist visitors at national parks and to police the parks. Visitor centers at numerous parks are scheduled to close under the sequester, and members of the parks police force must take furloughs of nearly two weeks before Oct. 1.

“It’s a painful time” leading to “tough decisions,” said Salazar, who announced his resignation in January.

The proposed budget will focus funding on developing renewable energy projects and exploration of conventional energy resources. It also pushes for water development in the parched West, calling for $22.5 million to find fresh water sources to meet demand.

The $58 million for climate change preparedness was increased to $71 million, and $800 million would be invested in improved education for Native American school children.

About $18 million would be contributed to a federal pool of money for research on the impacts of natural gas hydraulic fracturing led by the EPA.

Interior’s funding would represent only 1 percent of the president’s total proposal, according to officials from the agency.

Officials said they have offset budget gains with $217 million in cuts to administrative costs such as travel, and streamlining technology. The agency said it has also called for a repeal of incentives that benefit the oil and gas industry.

“We’re proud of the president’s budget. It is what it will take to get us out of a ditch and on the right track,” Salazar said.

– Darryl Fears

Justice Department

The administration’s budget proposal includes an extra $173 million for Justice Department programs to combat gun violence, including additional background checks and more frequent inspections of federally licensed firearms dealers. Currently, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives is able to inspect individual gun stores once every several years because of a lack of personnel.

The budget also includes $222 million in funding for state and local programs to foster gun safety, including proposed improvements to the system of submitting state criminal and mental health records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Other measures include police training and the development of better gun safety mechanisms.

Peter Finn

Labor Department

The Department of Labor would receive $12.1 billion in discretionary funding in the 2014 budget, an increase of $100 million from the president’s 2013 proposal, which Congress never acted on. The White House said the money will help unemployed workers gain skills to find new jobs.

The Department of Labor would receive $12.1 billion in discretionary funding in the 2014 budget, an increase of $100 million from 2013, money the White House said will help unemployed workers gain skills to find new jobs.

The budget includes nearly $1.8 billion for the department’s worker protection agencies, which are meant to protect health, safety, wages, and job conditions for workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration would receive an additional $5.9 million to bolster its enforcement of whistleblower laws.

The proposed funding also includes $381 million for the Mine Safety and Health Administration, in part to implement recommendations stemming from the Upper Big Branch mine disaster in West Virginia in 2012.

– Steve Vogel

NASA

The NASA budget will shrink slightly. The president is asking for 17.7 billion, down about $50 million from what the agency received in 2012. The NASA budget includes $78 million, little more than starter money, for a mission that would use a robotic spacecraft to lasso a small asteroid and tug it back to a stable orbit a bit farther from Earth than is the moon.

That asteroid could then be visited by astronauts in a spaceship under development. But the money for the program is slight enough that it gives the administration an out if technical problems arise.

The budget blueprint says the $78 million will “develop needed technologies and study alternative approaches for a robotic mission to rendezvous with a small asteroid – one that would be harmless to Earth – and move it to a stable location outside the Moon’s orbit.”

The president’s budget also includes a whack at a high-profile element of NASA: Planetary science, including the Mars program that last year put the rover Curiosity on the red planet. The proposal would cut Planetary Science dramatically, from $1.5 billion in 2012 to 1.217 billion in the coming fiscal year.

NASA administrator Charles Bolden said in a news conference that this was primarily the result of finding cheaper ways to achieve the same goals within the agency.

“We have now found ways to be much more frugal,” Bolden said.

But Bill Nye, the “Science Guy” who is CEO of the Planetary Society, which advocates for robotic space exploration in the solar system, expressed his displeasure in a blog post Wednesday on the organization’s web site. The budget cut, he wrote, “will strangle future missions and reverse a decade’s worth of investment building the world’s premier exploration program.”

He added: “NASA got approval to pursue a mission to capture and move an asteroid. This is intriguing and will receive a good deal of press coverage. But the disproportionate cuts to planetary science are disappointing and must get coverage, too. NASA did not get the message from Congress and the public about their wishes for missions to distant worlds.”

Joel Achenbach

Science

The president’s budget is generous, relatively speaking, with most science agencies, including the National Science Foundation, which funds basic science research.

The president is asking for $7.6 billion for NSF, an increase of 8.4 percent over the 2012 outlay.

The administration wants NSF to spend hundreds of millions of dollars, in partnership with the private sector and other government agencies, on creating the “smart” infrastructure of the future. As the budget document puts it, the money will go to “transforming static systems, processes, and infrastructure into adaptive, pervasive ‘smart’ systems with embedded computational intelligence that can sense, adapt and react.”

If that’s not futuristic enough, there’s also $32 million for NSF’s part in the National Robotics Initiative.

– Joel Achenbach

State Department

The administration’s budget proposal for the State Department earmarks $4 billion for security for overseas personnel and facilities. The amount includes $2.2 billion for construction recommended by the independent Accountability Review Board, which investigated the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans after extremists overran a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, last Sept. 11.

The budget also proposes $580 million to promote economic and political reforms across the Middle East and North Africa in response to the upheaval that followed the Arab Spring two years ago. The figure is $220 million below the proposed amount for last fiscal year. As part of promoting stability and development in critical countries, the budget allocates $1.4 billion for Pakistan, $2.1 billion for Iraq and $3.4 billion for Afghanistan while reducing spending for operations in those countries.

Douglas Frantz

Veterans

The president’s proposed $152.7 billion budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs represents a 10.2 percent increase from the previous year.

The budget includes $66.5 billion in discretionary spending, mostly for healthcare, and $ 86.1 billion for mandatory programs, including disability compensation and pensions for veterans.

The increase would be four percent over the previous year without factoring in mandatory spending. The White House said last week that the relatively large increase in spending on veterans is in part a reflection on the “national priority” given to reducing the VA’s massive backlog of disability claims.

Much of the money is going to VA medical care. In addition to the $54.6 billion requested for  2014, the administration also proposes $55.6 billion in advance appropriates for medical care in 2015, a measure the White House said will provide predictable funding “to prevent our veterans from being adversely affected by appropriations delays.”

The budget also provides $1.4 billion to support the administration’s campaign to end veterans homelessness by 2015, and $104 million for a revamped program called “Transition GPS,” meant to help members of the military leaving service make the transition to civilian life.

– Steve Vogel

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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Josh Hicks | April 10, 2013