Trump budget seeks to boost defense spending, slash State Department and EPA

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White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney speaks with reporters during a daily press briefing Feb. 27 at the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.

President Donald Trump’s budget proposal would boost spending for defense, border security and law enforcement while making major cuts from a number of domestic government programs, including the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency — a plan that reflects promises from the campaign and early in his presidency to make the government cheaper and more efficient.

The proposal asks Congress for a $54 billion increase for the Pentagon — 10 percent more than its budget last fiscal year — and a 6 percent boost for the Department of Homeland Security, which includes $2.6 billion for Trump’s promised wall along the Mexican border, a signature campaign promise.

To offset that spending, Trump is seeking a 28 percent cut in State Department funding, much of it from foreign aid, along with large reductions from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Congressional Budget Office projected a $488 billion deficit in the next spending year. Trump’s budget as proposed would not add to the deficit, Office of Budget and Management director Mick Mulvaney said.

Mulvaney characterized the cuts — which would also affect the Department of Housing and Urban Development — as some of “the most inefficient, most wasteful, most indefensible programs” in the federal government.

But critics said Trump’s plans would leave the budget “possibly emaciated,” and they also didn’t address other long-term deficit issues he’d encounter down the road.

Mulvaney said he assembled the $1 trillion spending outline for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 by drawing directly from Mr. Trump’s campaign speeches, interviews and other statements. “We turned his policies into numbers,” he told reporters at a news briefing Wednesday. “If he said it in the campaign, it’s in the budget.”

The document, which will be released later Thursday, covers only the spending that’s determined each year by Congress — what’s called “discretionary spending”– and not the other $3 trillion in annual federal spending that’s set by permanent law, known as “mandatory spending.”

Mandatory spending includes such so-called entitlements as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Those details will come in a bigger budget document due in May.

The White House budget blueprint also does not reflect possible tax cuts or the passage of the health care bill currently working its way through Congress.

READ MORE: Beyond the top-line numbers, what else was in CBO’s report on new health care bill?

The document is a request to Congress, which decides the actual spending through the annual appropriations process. It proposes overall spending for federal agencies, while giving Cabinet secretaries and agency heads wide latitude in how to spend it, Mulvaney said.

Earlier this week, Trump ordered a review of every executive department and agency, an effort to improve efficiency, cut waste and “eliminate unnecessary agencies.” Department heads will submit their proposals to Trump in six months.

Mulvaney said Trump arrived at $54 billion for the Pentagon through conversations with Defense Secretary James Mattis to ensure that it could be spent effectively. “We are not just throwing money at a problem and saying that we have solved it,” the former South Carolina congressman said.

In addition, the administration is asking Congress for an additional $30 billion in the current spending year for the Pentagon and Homeland Security, Mulvaney said. Included in that request is $1.5 billion for the border wall. The design of the wall and where construction will begin has yet to be determined, the budget director said.

Much of the reduction in State Department funding reflects big cuts in foreign aid. “We believe we have protected the core diplomatic function of State,” Mulvaney said. “This is a ‘hard-power’ budget” that shifts money from “soft-power” functions like economic aid to other countries to “hard-power” like military weaponry and troops, he said.

At the EPA, Mulvaney said cuts would reflect the president’s world view by reducing spending in areas such as climate change and alternative energies. The Associated Press reported last week that HUD could face as much as $6 billion in cuts.

While seeking a 1 percent cut in the NASA budget, Trump is also calling for an increase in spending on space exploration by making other savings at the agency, Mulvaney said.

In addition, Mulvaney said the administration wants to end federal support of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in the current spending year, which ends Sept. 30. The chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Arts told staff Wednesday the budget would also eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, according to the New York Times.

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