Tuesday, February 2, 2010;
The Pentagon would get a 3.4 percent boost to its regular discretionary budget, plus extra money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Obama administration's spending plans for 2011. President Obama is requesting a total of $708 billion for the Defense Department next year: $549 billion for its base budget and $159 billion for "overseas contingencies operations," namely the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Separately, the White House is asking Congress for an extra $33 billion in a supplemental 2010 request to pay for sending 30,000 reinforcements to Afghanistan this year. In contrast with last year -- when Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates eliminated or curtailed several expensive conventional weapons programs, including the F-22 fighter jet -- the new budget includes no major weapons cancellations and is likely to win support from the defense industry. Obama has exempted national security programs from a three-year freeze he is seeking to impose on federal discretionary spending.
The Energy Department's total budget would rise 7.8 percent under the president's plan, to $31.2 billion. The department would receive more money to spend on managing the nation's nuclear stockpile and naval reactors, as well as on basic science and energy research, both favorite areas of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. Obama's budget request would double the Energy Department's ability to guarantee loans for the construction of new nuclear plants, providing an additional $36 billion. Such guarantees would sharply reduce the financing cost of nuclear plants, which are expensive to build, and proponents hope they would help jump-start an additional half a dozen nuclear power plants. The administration has also proposed $500 million in credit subsidies to support loan guarantees for energy-efficiency and renewable-energy projects. The budget would eliminate funding, however, for the long-discussed nuclear waste repository in Yucca Mountain, Nev. The budget proposal says that Yucca "is not a workable option." The Energy Department would also continue to spend money authorized by the 2009 stimulus bill, thus raising its actual outlays substantially.
The Food and Drug Administration would see a 6 percent jump in its total budget, to $2.5 billion. The agency also expects to bring in an additional $1.5 billion through user fees from food, tobacco and drug industries. Bolstered by those combined funds, the agency plans to hire 1,251 more full-time employees (a 10 percent boost in its workforce). Many of those workers, and another large chunk of the new money, would be dedicated to ensuring food safety, which Obama has flagged as a priority. The FDA is reorganizing the way it monitors the production of food, with plans to step up inspections of domestic and foreign food suppliers, expand its laboratory capacity, and improve its ability to trace the source of an outbreak of food illness, among other things. Some say the budget is overly optimistic because it depends on $250 million in user fees that Congress has not approved. (The fees are part of a bill that was passed by the House last year but is apparently stalled in the Senate.) The agency says it will also use the additional money to approve more generic drugs and pharmaceuticals, improve the safety surveillance of medical devices, and make that data more widely available to physicians, the public and researchers. FDA officials say they need new resources to be able to scrutinize and set standards for drugs and medical devices that spring from nanotechnology and other modern scientific advancements.
Health & Human Services
Last year, Obama used his budget to lay the groundwork for comprehensive health-care reform, proposing a 10-year $634 billion reserve fund as a "down payment" on universal coverage. This year's blueprint does not include that money, though administration sources said the overall federal budget assumes that a bill will be enacted and result in deficit reduction of $150 billion over the next decade. The $900 billion total budget for the Department of Health and Human Services envisions a few minor changes: a $1 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health, $1.6 billion more for child care and an additional $290 million for community health centers. Most of the budget goes to one mandatory program, Medicare for the elderly and disabled, which is expected to cost $489 billion next year, after recouping an anticipated $722 million in waste, fraud and abuse. States would receive $290 billion for another mandatory health program, Medicaid for the poor. Obama is proposing to continue increased spending on health information technology and comparative effectiveness research. The pandemic flu program will be funded with money from last year's economic stimulus act.
The Department of Homeland Security would get 4 percent more in its total budget, raising it to $53.7 billion, under Obama's budget request. The money includes $200 million to pay state and local costs of securing terrorism-related trials; a 10 percent increase, to $950 million, for federal air marshals; and $734 million to deploy hundreds of whole-body-imaging scanners at airports. To pay for new ships, the Coast Guard would trim its 42,000 active-duty force by slightly more than 1,100 people. The Border Patrol, whose workforce has doubled over a decade, would shrink its ranks by about 180 agents. DHS also would cut spending on border technology because of delayed deployment on the U.S.-Mexican border.
The president is asking for nearly 10 percent more for the Justice Department next fiscal year, according to Obama's budget request, for a total of $31.3 billion. (The department's own figures reflect a total proposal of $29.2 billion, an increase of more than 5 percent over last year.) The primary recipients of that money would be the FBI and the federal prison system. Overall national security spending by the department would increase $300 million, according to the proposal. The FBI would get an additional $219 million to boost its national security efforts, and Justice's National Security Division would receive $8 million more to protect against terrorism threats and cyber attacks. The White House is also allotting $73 million for the transfer and prosecution of nearly 200 detainees remaining at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which the president has pledged to close. The budget request also reflects some traditional law-and-order priorities: $538 million to support women who have been victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault, an increase of $120 million over last year; $133 million for programs to help prisoners reenter their communities; and $19 million for the FBI to hire dozens of new agents to combat crime on American Indian reservations.
Under Obama's proposed budget, Labor Department spending would fall 32 percent from this year, to $117 billion, largely because federal spending for unemployment benefits and stimulating the economy would shrink. (The discretionary portion of Labor's budget is down 5 percent, to $13.9 billion.) The administration highlighted in its budget request a proposal to revise how workers get assistance for retraining. "Today, workers and young people looking for effective training must navigate a maze of programs with little information about how well these programs work," according to the budget statement. The administration has asked for $10 billion to reform that system.
The State Department's fiscal 2011 budget, including funding for related international programs, would rise to $58 billion under the president's proposal. That amounts to a 2.8 percent increase, assuming Congress approves a pending supplemental foreign-affairs budget for this year. Much of the proposed increase would go toward programs in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, which would get a 7.5 percent boost above 2010 levels, according to the State Department. The request includes $1.2 billion for a counterinsurgency fund for Pakistan. The proposal increases funding for global health programs such as maternal and child care, tropical diseases and prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS by 9 percent, to $8.5 billion. The Obama administration would be on track to fulfill its pledge of doubling foreign assistance over six years, with a request of about $41.1 billion, up from $26.1 billion in 2009. The State Department would add 410 Foreign Service personnel, and the U.S. Agency for International Development would get 200 more Foreign Service officers, under the 2011 budget. That would continue programs to rebuild the depleted agencies, but the rate of increase would be less than the administration had originally planned.
The Treasury Department's discretionary budget for fiscal 2011 would rise 3 percent, to $13.9 billion, with most of that going to the Internal Revenue Service. Treasury would spend $8 billion to boost IRS enforcement and to modernize its technology, but the department said it would recover that cost through better tax collections. In its mandatory budget, the department reported a substantial change related to its bailout of Wall Street. The projected cost of the bank rescue, known as the Troubled Assets Relief Program, was slashed to $117 billion, down from an estimate of $340 billion made last summer.
The total budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs would remain nearly static for fiscal 2011, with a trim in disability compensation and pensions benefits nearly offsetting a 7 percent increase in discretionary spending. The government said that it expects its medical costs to rise 8 percent, to a net of $48.2 billion. The spending plan also accounts for the enrollment of more than 500,000 moderate-income veterans by 2013 who were not previously eligible for some VA care. It also increases funding for specialized medical and counseling services for female veterans. About $5.2 billion would be spent to expand inpatient, residential and outpatient mental health programs, and $799 million would be used to expand services to homeless veterans by expanding VA partnerships with local governments, nonprofits and the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Justice and Labor.