Donald Trump budget: Funding slashed for raft of agencies to spend $54bn on defence

Defence and Homeland Security to get the most money, while State Department and Environmental Protection Agency will experience deep cuts

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Thursday 16 March 2017 19:56 GMT
President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump (AP)

President Donald Trump has announced his proposed federal budget plan, which includes increases for defence and national security but cuts to 19 other agencies.

The plan set out on Thursday was in reality just a "pared-down first draft" of the sort of appropriations request all new administrations submit during their first few months, the New York Times reported.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said on a press call: “This is just discretionary spending.” In May, a broader budget proposal will be released which will include taxation and tackle the majority of government spending - including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

The budget cuts will free up approximately $54 billion for increases to Department of Veterans Affairs, Defense, and Homeland Security budgets.

The proposal also does not take into account tax cuts and was not drafted with the assumption that the Obamacare replacement plan proposed by House of Representative Republicans would pass in its current form.

Mr Mulvaney said the Trump administration has targeted the “most inefficient, most wasteful, most indefensible programmes” and moved money towards defence and national security efforts.

One of Mr Trump’s promises, to build a border wall with Mexico to stop illegal immigration, has been worked into the budget.

However, Mr Mulvaney noted that “we did not say ‘ok, we need a $1.5bn for the wall, let's go over and reduce this program in education and move that $1.5 billion over to the wall.’ We dealt with it more holistically.”

The $1.5 billion allocated for the proposed wall is what the administration felt they could spend on it this year, but Mr Mulvaney explained that there would be a more in-depth analysis and more money for the project in the budget document coming this May.

“We don't know [how many miles of wall that builds] because we haven't settled on construction types or where we're going to start,” Mr Mulvaney said of the $1.5 billion.

The amount allows for various construction materials and types of barriers.

Another promise of Mr Trump’s was to improve infrastructure. The American Society of Infrastructure Engineers has given the country an overall “grade of D+.”

However, there are multiple line item cuts in the proposed budget to infrastructure programmes, especially in the Department of Transportation.

Mr Mulvaney deemed these programmes as inefficient and said the White House would be issuing a more detailed “infrastructure package” later in 2017.

No specific date was given and Mr Mulvaney did not say whether the same projects being de-funded would be included in the upcoming “package.”

In Mr Trump’s first address to Congress, he claimed he wanted to “eliminate” all disease, but the budget for the National Institutes of Health - where cutting-edge research on common and rare diseases is done - has been cut by approximately $6 billion.

Mr Mulvaney had a muddled response, saying that some federal funding for research on the rarest of diseases will likely remain.

Regarding the cuts to Housing and Urban Development, Mr Mulvaney said Mr Trump and the agency’s head Dr Ben Carson worked together. “We spent a lot of money on housing and urban development in the last decade without a lot to show for it,” Mr Mulvaney noted.

These cuts include the Meals on Wheels program, a home delivery meal service for the elderly and disabled.

The State Department, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Agriculture department budgets appear to have the deepest cuts.

EPA will go from having $8.2 billion to just $5.7 billion, according to the New York Times.

It is in line with EPA head Scott Pruitt’s unpopular stance on climate change and Mr Trump’s commitment to reviving the coal industry.

The cuts to the State Department - which houses the US Agency for International Development are around 28 to 31 per cent. These cuts have already been opposed by Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell and even Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asked for a less stringent cut.

Despite the apparent commitment to national security, the Coast Guard’s maritime security efforts will be hindered by a “devastating” 14 per cent cut as will their ocean preservation and environmental monitoring work.

Mr Mulvaney said the full May budget document will be a revised version of the current proposal and that agencies have been given “a great deal of discretion” when it comes to layoffs of federal employees.

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