Newly confirmed Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney Feb. 27 gave reporters preliminary details from the president’s forthcoming budget request, outlining the president’s intention to propose a $54 billion increase in defense spending offset by cuts to non-security federal programs.
The administration’s fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget request is expected to propose $603 billion in defense spending, and $462 billion in non-defense discretionary (NDD) funding. Under current law, defense spending in FY 2018 is not to exceed $549 billion, once automatic spending reductions required by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25) take effect, while the FY 2018 cap for non-defense discretionary spending is set at $515.6 billion, approximately $3 billion less than the FY 2017 total of $518.5 billion.
Described by President Trump as a budget with a national security focus, White House officials indicated that, in addition to increases in military spending, the budget potentially will propose boosting funding for law enforcement, border programs, and veterans. Though specific funding details have not yet been released, exempting those NDD programs from cuts would lead to deeper cuts in other federal programs.
The top Democrats on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees each issued statements cautioning that steep cuts to NDD programs would have far-reaching consequences. Senate Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) stated, “Building the wall and increasing defense spending so quickly and dramatically will be done at the expense of priorities that touch the lives of every middle and lower class working family, ranging from research to cure cancer, to investments in our schools and students, and at the expense of rebuilding our crumbling roads, bridges, and public transit systems.”
In her statement, House Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) pointed out, “Enacting appropriations law – as opposed to proposing nonbinding budget resolutions – will likely require Democratic votes,” noting Democrats’ expected opposition to such proposals.
But Democrats were not alone in questioning the impact of the White House’s budget plans. In a Feb. 28 op ed, House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.) encouraged the administration to consider whether increased defense funding will “be offset by reduced spending on domestic priorities such as early childhood education, biomedical research and clean drinking water.” Chairman Cole also urged entitlement reform.
As is customary in the first year of a new administration, the White House does not expect to release the president’s full budget request until later in the year, potentially by May. Instead, the administration plans to release a “skinny budget” in mid-March that likely will include only top-line funding proposals for major federal agencies. According to press reports, the early blueprint will focus only on discretionary spending proposals, with details on the White House’s proposed mandatory spending policies deferred until the full budget release.