What Trump proposed in his 2021 budget

The Trump administration released its 2021 budget request on Monday, seeking big reductions at several federal agencies but largely protecting money for the Pentagon, Medicare and Social Security. The budget plan is supposed to kick off negotiations with Congress, but it also brings into focus the White House’s vision for how federal agencies should operate and what the government’s priorities should be.

The budget plan is similar to past proposals from President Trump, in that it emphasizes spending on the military and immigration enforcement while seeking to cut back funding for education, housing and environmental protection. It also looks for big cuts in programs such as Medicaid and food stamps that help low-income Americans.

Proposed changes to funding in Trump’s budget

Commerce

-37%

Environmental Protection Agency

-27%

State and USAID

-21%

HUD

-15%

Interior

-13%

Transportation

-13%

Labor

-11%

Health and Human Services

-9%

Agriculture

-8%

Energy

-8%

Education

-8%

Justice

-2%

Defense

0.1%

Treasury

2%

Homeland Security

3%

NASA

12%

Veterans Affairs

13%

Commerce

-37%

Environmental Protection Agency

-27%

State and USAID

-21%

HUD

-15%

Interior

-13%

Transportation

-13%

Labor

-11%

Health and Human Services

-9%

Agriculture

-8%

Energy

-8%

Education

-8%

Justice

-2%

Defense

0.1%

Treasury

2%

Homeland Security

3%

NASA

12%

Veterans Affairs

13%

Commerce

-37%

Environmental Protection Agency

-27%

State and USAID

-21%

HUD

-15%

Interior

-13%

Transportation

-13%

Labor

-11%

Health and Human Services

-9%

Agriculture

-8%

Energy

-8%

Education

-8%

Justice

-2%

Defense

0.1%

Treasury

2%

Homeland Security

3%

NASA

12%

Veterans Affairs

13%

Even with numerous proposed cuts, the budget proposal would not eliminate the deficit until 2035 because of relatively low levels of tax revenue and because big, politically popular programs like Social Security and Medicare would continue to grow.

This budget proposal is the last one Trump will submit to Congress before the presidential election in November.

Key proposed additions

  • Commits a 13.3 percent boost — $12.3 billion — to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The gains will be used to fund major initiatives.
  • Increases the NASA budget by $2.7 billion, alloting $700 million to support lunar activites.
  • The Department of Homeland Security would have a 3.2 percent increase overall despite the proposal to transfer the Secret Service to the Department of Treasury.

Key proposed cuts

  • Reduces the budget for the Department of Health and Human Services by almost $10 billion. This cut affects the budget for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by 16 percent.
  • Slashes the Commerce Department budget by 37 percent — 10 percent more than any other department - because of the decrease in spending on the U.S. Census.
  • Cuts $2.4 billion from the Environmental Protection Agency, similar to the amount of cuts the department received last budget term.

Below are descriptions of the administration’s budget proposals for most major federal agencies.

Detailed funding changes by agency

Agriculture Department

2020 budget

$23.8B

2021 budget

$21.8B

Change

-$1.9B

$1 billion

The Trump administration is looking to cut the Agriculture Department’s discretionary budget by $1.65 billion from the 2020 estimate, while also slashing by $15 billion the funds available to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps). The budget would also reduce federal crop insurance subsidies, with a projected savings of $25 billion over 10 years. The subsidies protect farmers against loss of crops from natural disasters or loss of revenue because of declines in the prices of agricultural commodities. The budget would also reduce support for families with children experiencing poverty by cutting the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program by $22 billion over 10 years. After failing to secure food assistance reform through legislation, the administration has increasingly looked to the regulatory process to achieve these goals, with three proposed SNAP rules that would end food assistance benefits to between 3 and 4 million Americans.


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Commerce Department

2020 budget

$12.9B

2021 budget

$8.1B

Change

-$4.8B

$1 billion

The Trump administration is proposing a substantial cut to the Commerce Department, with spending down 37 percent compared with the 2020 enacted level. A big difference from 2020 is far less spending on the U.S. Census next year, the White House said. For the second consecutive year, Trump is asking lawmakers to eliminate the Economic Development Administration. The office, created in 1965 to promote economic activity in distressed areas, distributes $300 million annually in small grants to local communities. But its efforts have “negligible measurable impacts,” the administration said. The president is again trying to ax the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which develops cost-saving innovations for small and medium-size manufacturers. Under the new budget, the department’s priorities would include accelerating its review of requests for exclusions from the president’s import tariffs; the development of new weather satellites; and broader mapping of the U.S. offshore economic zone.


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Defense Department

2020 budget

$704.6B

2021 budget

$705.4B

Change

+$0.8B

$1 billion

The Department of Defense’s budget would go up slightly by 0.1% over the prior year, excluding the $8 billion in emergency disaster relief Congress allocated to the Pentagon in the prior year after hurricanes hit military installations. The entire national defense budget, which includes money for defense-related activities at other federal agencies, including the National Nuclear Security Administration, would be $740.5 billion, up from $738 billion the prior year, excluding emergency and disaster relief funds. Among other priorities, the Pentagon money is slated to go to further investment in the creation of a Space Force, a 3 percent pay increase for the military, and investments in hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence and autonomous weaponry. It continues investments in a vast modernization of the American nuclear arsenal, and includes the largest ever research, development and testing budget, at $106.6 billion, $2.1 billion more than the prior year. The roughly flat overall budget is a plateau after sizable increases were pushed through Congress in the years since Trump took office.


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Education Department

2020 budget

$72.2B

2021 budget

$66.6B

Change

-$5.6B

$1 billion

The Trump budget would cut the Education Department’s discretionary spending by 7.8 percent, slashing and consolidating programs across the agency. The president has proposed similar cuts in years past, and Congress has consistently rejected them. Last year, for instance, lawmakers boosted spending by $1.7 billion. The budget also proposes steep cuts to the student loan program — nearly $5 billion next year and more than $60 billion over five years. The reductions would eliminate popular initiatives such as a loan forgiveness program for students who take public service jobs and subsidized lending for low-income students. It would also change rules to make other loan programs less generous. But it’s not all cuts: the budget proposes a new $5 billion tax credit to reward donors who contribute to private school scholarships. That idea was pitched last year but not adopted. At the same time, the budget eliminates dedicated funding for another version of school choice, folding a program supporting charter schools into a larger state grant.


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Energy Department

2020 budget

$38.5B

2021 budget

$35.4B

Change

-$3.1B

$1 billion

The proposed budget would cut the Energy Department’s nonnuclear programs by 28.7 percent, while increasing spending on nuclear security by 19 percent. Overall, department financing would fall by 8.1 percent. The budget would eliminate programs that support clean-energy projects, including one on tribal lands. It would kill an alternate technology vehicle program just weeks after a start-up in Ohio, Lordstown Motors, said it was seeking a $200 million loan under the program to retool a former General Motors factory. The administration is renewing a proposal, unsuccessful in past years, to sell off the transmission assets of three of the country’s publicly owned Power Marketing Administrations, which provide electricity to cooperatives in the West, Southwest and Northwest. The budget includes no funding for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site, but it proposes finding an alternative. The budget also seeks to ease “burdensome energy efficiency regulations” while investing in “coal-based products and technologies.”


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Department of Health and Human Services

2020 budget

$105.8B

2021 budget

$96.4B

Change

-$9.5B

$1 billion

The budget would allot about $96 billion in discretionary spending — a 9 percent decrease — to the Department of Health and Human Services. It also proposes $1.3 trillion in funding for “mandatory” spending, which includes the Medicaid and Medicare programs. In many respects, the spending plan reflects the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to tilt health policy in a more conservative direction. Medicaid, the safety-net insurance for low-income Americans, would receive nearly $920 billion less than otherwise anticipated by 2030, as federal health officials encourage states to create work requirements and tighten eligibility checks. And a “health reform vision allowance” would lower spending on the Affordable Care Act by $844 billion over the decade. The budget seeks to eliminate Community Development Block Grants, low-income energy assistance and certain training programs for health professionals — all longtime conservative targets. And it proposes to tighten bans on federal funding for facilities that perform abortions. For Medicare, the federal insurance for older Americans and those with disabilities, the spending plan would curb spending by $480 billion over the decade, primarily through proposed cuts in payments to doctors and hospitals, rather than reducing benefits. The budget seeks to expand efforts to improve access to health care in rural America and to improve the health of pregnant women and new mothers.

The administration is also requesting roughly double the funds requested last year to accommodate unaccompanied immigrant children — youngsters apprehended after crossing the border or who have been separated from their families by U.S. immigration authorities. Also, the budget for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be reduced by almost 16 percent, dropping to $6.4 billion from $7.6 billion this year. HHS officials say they propose to refocus the CDC on its core mission of preventing and controlling infectious diseases and other public health issues, such as opioid addiction, while reducing funding for non-infectious-disease activities. The president has also proposed to take the regulation of e-cigarettes and cigarettes away from the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products and installing it instead in a new office at HHS.


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Department of Homeland Security

2020 budget

$48.1B

2021 budget

$49.7B

Change

+$1.6B

$1 billion

The Department of Homeland Security would get $52.1 billion in 2021, a 3.2 percent increase overall. But Trump’s budget proposal seeks to transfer the Secret Service and its $2.4 billion budget to the Treasury Department, a move that would take away one of DHS’s key components. Most of the funding increases Trump is proposing would expand his administration’s detention powers and further harden the country’s borders. The 2021 budget seeks $2 billion in construction funds for Trump’s border wall, down from $5 billion in previous years, in addition to a separate plan to divert $7.2 billion in Defense Department money toward barrier construction.

Trump’s budget proposal would also fund an expansion of the government’s deportation powers by giving an additional $544 million to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The money would pay for “an additional 4,636 ICE law enforcement officers, immigration court prosecuting attorneys, and additional critical support staff,” the request states. The White House also wants lawmakers to pay for 60,000 immigration detention beds per day, enough to boost ICE’s jail capacity by more than 30 percent.


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Department of Housing and Urban Development

2020 budget

$56.5B

2021 budget

$47.9B

Change

-$8.6B

$1 billion

Trump proposed an $8.6 billion cut for the Department of Housing and Urban Development for 2021, a 15.2 percent decrease from the amount enacted for 2020. The cuts, as in previous years, include eliminating the four-decade-old Community Development Block Grant program popular among congressional Democrats and Republicans, as well as affordable housing grants to states and municipalities to help with the construction, purchase or rental of homes.


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Interior Department

2020 budget

$14.7B

2021 budget

$12.7B

Change

-$2.0B

$1 billion

The Interior Department’s budget would be cut by 13 percent, or $2 billion from the current year. Funds to acquire land for conservation would be reduced, the administration said, along with money that is currently set aside to help American Indian tribes. Since Trump’s election, land acquisition and conservation has been targeted for cuts. Interior’s budget had grown steadily before the president took office, rising to $13.1 billion. The president’s $12.7 billion request for Interior will probably be increased by Congress, as it has for the past three years. The administration says that its cuts would save $132 million that could be used to reduce the backlog of maintenance projects at national parks.


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Justice Department

2020 budget

$32.4B

2021 budget

$31.7B

Change

-$0.7B

$1 billion

The administration proposes cutting the Justice Department’s budget by about 2 percent, for total spending of $31.7 billion. As part of that cost-cutting, the budget would save $505 million by eliminating planned construction of a federal prison and eliminate $244 million in spending for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which the Trump White House argues is “ineffective.” Like past budget proposals, this one would also transfer away from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives the responsibility for regulating alcohol and tobacco, but such proposals have not gained traction with Congress.​


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Labor Department

2020 budget

$12.4B

2021 budget

$11B

Change

-$1.3B

$1 billion

The budget proposal slashes $1.3 billion in discretionary funding from the Labor Department, a decline of nearly 11 percent. The budget also aims to save $27 billion over 10 years by increasing some premiums paid to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., and $10 billion by cutting unemployment insurance, by cracking down on “improper” payments, according to the White House. The White House also said it planned to increase funding to investigate and audit more unions for fraud.


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State Department and USAID

2020 budget

$55.7B

2021 budget

$44.1B

Change

-$11.7B

$1 billion

The budget would cut spending for diplomacy, aid and international development by almost $12 billion, 22 percent less than what has been spent this year. It would require significant drops in refugee and humanitarian aid, and it also slashes U.S. contributions to international organizations, think tanks and cultural exchanges. Yet support for the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity fund championed by Trump adviser and daughter Ivanka Trump would double to $200 million. The cuts reflect the administration’s push for other countries and nongovernmental organizations to step up their donations, with U.S. taxpayers contributing less. The State Department budget would also cut Ukraine’s share of an anti-corruption program called International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement, from $30 million this year to $13 million in 2021. But foreign aid in general has wide, bipartisan support, and previous attempts by the administration to make such deep cuts have been jettisoned by Congress for budgets that maintained current spending. Democrats in Congress predicted that this year’s proposal would meet a similar fate.


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Transportation Department

2020 budget

$24.8B

2021 budget

$21.6B

Change

-$3.2B

$1 billion

The budget marks a 13 percent reduction in discretionary spending on airports, trains, ports and other areas. Funding for Amtrak’s national passenger network and along the Northeast Corridor, which stretches from Washington to Boston, is cut by more than half. Federal Aviation Administration grants to improve airports are reduced by $400 million, because the “state-of-repair” of projects such as runways is high, the administration said. The budget also eliminates more than $2 billion in discretionary highway infrastructure programs, and more than $500 million in transit grants, saying those programs should instead by funded by Congress through a long-term reauthorization of the Highway Trust Fund. That fund covers road and transit projects nationwide but has long faced major shortfalls because its main source of money, the gas tax, has failed to keep up with inflation or national needs. The budget calls on Congress to pass a “multi-year, fiscally responsible” reauthorization of the fund, totaling $810 billion over 10 years.


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Treasury Department

2020 budget

$15.5B

2021 budget

$15.7B

Change

+$0.2B

$1 billion

The budget proposal would transfer the Secret Service back to the Treasury Department, moving it out of DHS. And it seeks to raise $34 billion over 10 years by raising the fees that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac charge for guaranteeing mortgage-backed products. In addition to ending some energy-related tax credits, the Treasury also calls for halting funding for Community Development Financial Institutions, something the White House has sought in the past but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has expressed hesitancy about. Total department funding would remain relatively flat and includes multiple investments aimed at modernizing the Internal Revenue Service.


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Department of Veterans Affairs

2020 budget

$92.7B

2021 budget

$105.0B

Change

+$12.3B

$1 billion

The budget would boost discretionary spending at Veterans Affairs by 13.2 percent to $105 billion, making it the only Cabinet department to see a double-digit funding increase. The plan follows through for a fourth year on Trump’s commitment to spending more on services to veterans, a constituency that will be key to his reelection campaign.

VA would invest in a range of existing programs, including the fight against opioid abuse and suicide prevention — and an expansion of caregiver benefits for family members caring for ill veterans. A multi-year effort to merge veterans’ medical records with the Defense Department’s, set to roll out at select hospitals this year, would grow by $1.2 billion to $2.6 billion.

About 9.2 million veterans are enrolled in VA’s healthcare system, the country’s largest. With last year’s rollout of a program to increase appointments with private doctors at taxpayer expense, VA officials said Monday that demand for care is growing both inside and outside the system. The agency said it hopes to hire 14,000 employees this year, 7,000 of them doctors, nurses and other medical professionals.


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Environmental Protection Agency

2020 budget

$9.1B

2021 budget

$6.7B

Change

-$2.4B

$1 billion

Once again, the administration is seeking deep cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency, with the White House proposing to eliminate dozens of programs across the country. The proposal would reduce the EPA’s budget to $6.7 billion for 2021 — a 26 percent decrease from the level Congress enacted for 2020. The administration’s latest proposal would take less of a sledgehammer to the agency than what Trump initially envisioned after taking office, when the White House argued for a 31 percent cut that would have erased more than 20 percent of the agency’s workforce. Trump’s proposed budget includes funding to reduce exposure to lead in water as well as funding to combat harmful algal blooms around the country. But it also includes cutting what the White House called “50 wasteful programs that are outside of EPA’s core missions or duplicative of other efforts.” The administration says such cuts would save taxpayers more than $600 million, but lawmakers on Capitol Hill have shown little inclination in recent years to approve significant cuts to the agency.


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NASA

2020 budget

$22.6B

2021 budget

$25.2B

Change

+$2.7B

$1 billion

NASA would receive a 12 percent increase, largely to fund the White House’s goal to send astronauts back to the moon by 2024, the agency’s top priority. The $25.2 billion spending plan would include $3.4 billion for vehicles to land astronauts on the lunar surface and more than $700 million to support activities on the moon, such as resource mining that would help humans “live off the land.” The plan also calls for “new prizes and challenges, research grants and public-private partnerships to develop new technologies that would make future missions to Mars more affordable.” It offers no funding for the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, as in the past. But in previous years, Congress has included funding for the astrophysics mission. NASA’s moon plan, dubbed Artemis, calls for increased spending through fiscal 2023, when NASA’s total budget would top out at $28.6 billion, a significant boost for the space agency. When Trump entered office, NASA’s budget was about $19 billion.

About this story

Numbers from the Office of Management and Budget. Defense Department budget does not include $8 billion in emergency funding for hurricane recovery in this fiscal year.

Laura Reiley, Laura Meckler, Christian Davenport, Brady Dennis, Laura Helmuth, Laurie McGinley, Lisa Rein, Tracy Jan, Eli Rosenberg, Michael Laris, Will Englund, Darryl Fears, Paul Sonne, Abigail Hauslohner, Amy Goldstein, Devlin Barrett, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Carol Morello contributed to this story.

Icons by Tim Boelaars for The Washington Post.

Brittany Renee Mayes

Brittany Renee Mayes joined The Washington Post as a graphics reporter, focusing on sports and politics, in June 2018. She previously worked at NPR on the visuals team as a news applications developer.

Damian Paletta

Damian Paletta is White House economic policy reporter for The Washington Post. Before joining The Post, he covered the White House for the Wall Street Journal.

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