Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A look at Obama's 2011 budget for govt agencies

President Barack Obama's multi-trillion-dollar budget would boost spending for several government agencies while slashing the account for others. Here is an agency-by-agency glance:


Agency: Agriculture

Spending: $148.6 billion

Percentage change from 2010: 9.7 percent increase

Mandatory Spending: $122.8 billion

Highlights: Obama's proposed budget includes hundreds of millions of dollars in increased spending to help feed the poor while also limiting government handouts to wealthy farmers.

The budget would provide $8.1 billion for nutrition programs, a $400 million increase from the president's 2010 budget. It would allocate $10 billion over 10 years to improve access to USDA food programs, establishing higher nutrition standards at schools and aiming to reduce childhood hunger.

The budget also would increase government spending on food stamps, a jump of $11 million to a proposed $36 million. That includes an extension for an additional year of benefits under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which temporarily eliminated food stamp time limits for certain low-income adults.

Obama wants to limit the amount of money that wealthy farmers can receive from the government. Direct payments to farmers would be reduced from $40,000 per person per year to $30,000. Direct payments are payments to farmers based on historical production.

The budget also proposes limiting direct payments to farmers who make $500,000 or less in farm income; the limit is currently $750,000 or less.

Also in Obama's agriculture proposal:

_ $429 million for research grants through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

_ $418 million in loans and grants for expanding rural broadband access.

_ $1.2 billion for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to help farmers comply with regulatory requirements and protect natural resources, a 67 percent increase in funding over 2010.

_Henry C. Jackson


Agency: Commerce

Spending: $9.1 billion

Percentage change from 2010: 34.4 percent decrease

Mandatory Spending: $180 million

Highlights: The department's discretionary budget would decline from $13.8 billion in 2010 to $8.9 billion in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. Much of the proposed decrease comes from the U.S. Census Bureau, which received a huge spending increase last year to hire about a half million people and conduct the 2010 census.

The proposed Commerce budget would provide $1.3 billion to process, tabulate and release 2010 census data. Funds for the census are closely watched by Congress because the count determines government pay-outs to states and cities and the number of congressional seats in each state. Democrats typically seek more funds to enable accurate counts for poor and minority communities who have been undercounted in the past.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees the government's weather forecasting and conducts climate and ocean research, would get more money in the plan. The proposal would provide NOAA with more than $2 billion — the equivalent of the worldwide box office take of the blockbuster film "Avatar" — for weather satellites, measurements of sea level and other climate data.

The proposed budget would eliminate a grant program created in 2004 for manufacturers of worsted wool fabric. The department said wool manufacturers had enough time to adjust to changes in the trade law. It would also ax funding for a program that supports public television stations' conversion to digital broadcasting. The department said the required conversion efforts have been completed and money for remaining digital conversion would be available from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

_Ken Thomas


Agency: Defense

Spending: $768.2 billion

Percentage change from 2010: 2.2 percent increase

Mandatory Spending: $59.9 billion

Highlights: Obama's budget would boost defense spending slightly, with more money for helicopters, unmanned planes, commandos and other highly specialized assets that officials say are needed to fight nimble enemy forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The budget also would support for the first time Obama's envisioned European missile shield aimed at deterring Iran. Last fall, Obama scrapped a Bush-era project in Eastern Europe in favor of smaller radar systems with a network of sensors and missiles deployed at sea or on land.

Unlike last year's budget, when Obama called for an end to F-22 production, Obama's 2011 plan spares the military's major defense systems. The budget supports the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a new family of ground vehicles, as well as new ships.

One exception is the C-17 cargo plane, which the administration says the military should stop buying. The proposed cut would save $2.5 billion. The Pentagon has tried to cease production of the aircraft before, but lawmakers have restored the money because they fear ending the program would cost jobs in their home states.

Included in the $768 billion request is $159 billion for operations overseas.

In addition to the 2011 defense budget, Obama is asking for another $33 billion in war spending to sustain operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through September. The administration says the extra money was needed because of the 30,000 more troops being sent to Afghanistan.

_Anne Flaherty


Agency: Education

Spending: $82.3 billion

Percentage change from 2010: 32.8 percent increase

Mandatory Spending: $32.6 billion

Highlights: Obama is asking Congress for a major increase in education spending as he seeks to overhaul the nation's system and revise the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law.

The administration wants to help an additional 1 million college students by increasing the Pell Grant tuition program by $17 billion, to just under $35 billion. Pell Grants are the main form of college aid to the poor. The maximum grant would increase by $160 to $5,710.

Obama is seeking an increase in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, a $3 billion jump to $28 billion. There could be $1 billion more if Congress agrees to some major changes in the law.

The administration wants $1.35 billion more to expand the president's Race to the Top challenge, a federal grant program in which 40 states are competing for $4 billion in education money included in last year's stimulus bill.

In revising the No Child Left Behind law, Obama wants changes in how schools are judged to be successes or failures. The administration contends that if federal education spending is more competitive, states and school districts would do a better job. That's a change from the government's traditional formula-driven approach in which states and districts can look forward to getting a certain amount of money each school year, regardless of how good a job they do educating students.

Obama favors using student test scores to judge teacher performance and determine support for charter schools, which get public money but operate independently of local school boards. National teachers' unions disagree with that approach, saying student achievement is more than standardized test scores and that relying heavily on charter schools is a mistake.

Congress passed the No Child Left Behind law with bipartisan support in 2001 but deadlocked over a rewrite in 2007.

_Andrew Miga


Agency: Energy

Spending: $26.8 billion

Percentage change from 2010: 9.2 percent increase

Mandatory Spending: None.

Highlights: The budget follows through on Obama's call in his State of the Union address to build "a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country," by tripling the amount for loan guarantees for nuclear power to $54.5 billion. The spending proposal also aims to give a boost to energy efficiency and renewable energy projects with an additional $500 million in credit subsidy in support of $3 billion to $5 billion in loan guarantees.

As a candidate, Obama promised to close the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility in Nevada, and the budget calls for eliminating funding for the site.The budget also calls for a 4.6 percent increase in basic research.

Funding would be increased for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs such as solar energy.

_Frederic Frommer


Agency: Environmental Protection Agency

Spending: $9.9 billion

Percentage change from 2010: 3.2 percent decrease
Mandatory Spending: None.

Highlights: Obama's budget would finance efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the gases blamed for global warming — a first — as the administration awaits congressional action on legislation.

The budget seeks $43 million in new funds for the EPA and states to control emissions of heat-trapping pollution from automobiles and refineries, power plants and factories. The administration also is looking for more money to roll out a new rule that would require polluters to annually report the amount of greenhouse gases they release.

Unlike last year, the budget does not bank on raising money for a promised tax cut and clean energy technologies by auctioning off permits to companies that emit global warming gases. Congress has balked at that strategy. A House-passed bill gives the bulk of the permits away for free, as would a proposal being worked on in the Senate. Instead, there is a placeholder for a to-be-determined climate policy that would reduce emissions by more than 80 percent by 2050. The budget says the policy will be deficit neutral because the money made from selling permits will be returned to families, communities and businesses to help offset higher energy costs.

With a slight decrease in its request for hazardous-waste sites, the administration will likely continue to lag behind previous administrations in the pace of its cleanups.

The budget would continue to supply billions of dollars worth of grants to states and local governments to improve sewage treatment plants and drinking water systems, although the total is slightly less than last year. It adds another $1.3 billion — a 14 percent increase — to help cash-strapped states and tribes implement air and water programs.

_Dina Cappiello


Agency: Health and Human Services

Spending: $915.5 billion

Percentage change from 2010: 3.9 percent increase

Mandatory Spending: $832 billion

Highlights: Obama's health care budget takes modest steps to stretch the safety net for low-income families trapped in the economic downturn and improve the quality of medical care for seniors.

But his biggest project — health care overhaul to expand coverage and grapple with costs — is on hold in Congress with Democrats uncertain how to push the sweeping legislation over the finish line.

The budget includes a $25.5 billion cash infusion to help states cover the costs of their Medicaid programs until July of next year. Medicaid rolls grew as state revenues plummeted during the recession. Under the budget, every state would get an additional 6.2 percent of its Medicaid costs paid by Washington. That would extend federal assistance provided under the stimulus bill.

Obama is also calling for a big increase — $290 million — for community health centers that are front-line providers of medical care for low-income Americans, including many uninsured.

The budget takes a small — but potentially significant — step to improve Medicare quality by launching a series of experiments on how to better coordinate care for seniors with multiple chronic illness. And it adds funds for research into what kinds of medical treatments work best.

Also in Obama's health budget:

_ A crackdown on fraud, waste and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid, which the administration estimates could save more than $1 billion a year over the next decade.

_ A $1.4 billion investment to improve food safety, following outbreaks of illness in recent years.

_ A $1 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health for medical research, including the development of new drugs for cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.

_Ricardo Alonso-Zaldviar


Agency: Homeland Security

Spending: $44 billion

Percentage change from 2010: 1 percent increase

Mandatory Spending: $193 million

Highlights: In the wake of the attempted Christmas Day terrorist attack, Obama is seeking to strengthen aviation security programs.

The budget proposes funds to pay for 1,000 technologically advanced machines at airports. There is also money to hire more Federal Air Marshals so that they will be on more international flights. Currently there are more than 4,000 air marshals, with the exact figure classified.

While Obama is asking for the same amount in overall funds for screening operations — such as those at airports — he is asking for more money for explosive detection devices.

The budget calls for 25 percent less money for the border fence and technology — a controversial George W. Bush administration initiative that has run into problems.

The president's is asking for more money for counterterrorism and preparedness grants.

On the heels of the administration's decision to reconsider holding the high profile Sept. 11 trial in New York City, the president is asking for $200 million in grants available to those cities that do end up holding these trials. New York lawmakers said it would cost them $200 million a year if the trial is held in a Manhattan courthouse.

Despite promises to make cyber security a priority in his administration, Obama is asking for a decrease in funds for the department's cyber security division. He is also asking for less money to fund a program that detects biological threats.

Obama also is calling for cutting 1,100 active duty personnel in the Coast Guard and 181 Border Patrol agents. Recent administrations have hired more agents and Obama said the current number of about 20,000 agents is sufficient. Funds for immigration enforcement remains basically the same as last year.

_Eileen Sullivan


Agency: Housing and Urban Development

Spending: $48.9 billion

Percentage change from 2010: .9 percent decrease

Mandatory Spending: $7.3 billion

Highlights: The agency got a big boost in funding during the president's first year but would experience a small cut in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

Cuts would occur in a fund used to renovate public housing inventory, from $2.3 billion to $2 billion, and in the block grants used for constructing Native American housing, from $690 million to $578 million. Two programs that finance the development of supportive housing for the elderly and disabled will be suspended, though projects already in the pipeline would continue.

The agency will also begin consolidating 13 rental assistance programs to cut down on duplicative work assignments and improve customer service.

Spending on homelessness assistance would increase by nearly $200 million, or about 10 percent. Also, a recent increase in borrower fees and stricter lending requirements will generate $6 billion in profit for the Federal Housing Administration, a stark contrast to the publicly anticipated shortfall. The agency is a major source of funds for first time home buyers and there have been concerns that it would need a cash infusion.

_Kevin Freking


Agency: Interior

Spending: $12.1 billion

Percentage change from 2010: 5.9 percent decrease

Mandatory Spending: $30 million

Highlights: Interior would invest more than $73 million — an increase of $14.2 million — to spur construction of windmills, solar panels and other green-energy projects. The budget calls for increased taxes and fees on oil and gas companies that harvest fossil fuels in the Gulf of Mexico and on other public property.

The plan would save $115 million this year, and $1.2 billion over 10 years, by eliminating payments to states and Indian tribes that have completed cleanup of abandoned coal mines. The administration said the payments were intended to encourage mine cleanup and were never meant to continue after the work was completed.

The budget would cut $30 million for a National Park Service program called Save America's Treasures. The administration said the historic preservation program lacks rigorous performance standards and its benefits are unclear.

The plan would add more than $35 million to help land and wildlife managers monitor and prepare for global warming's toll. And it would set aside $75 million for a reserve fund to address catastrophic wildfires, so agencies don't have to divert money budgeted for other purposes.

The budget would provide $445 million — an increase of $106 million — to purchase more land and forests and to establish programs that encourage young people to hunt, fish and get outdoors.

_Matthew Daly


Agency: Justice

Spending: $31.4 billion

Percentage change from 2010: 5.7 percent increase

Mandatory Spending: $7.3 billion

Highlights: The proposed budget calls for $73 million for the transfer, prosecution and incarceration of Guantanamo Bay detainees. The administration said it will work with Congress to identify additional funds and other resources that may be needed in the current fiscal year to address "extraordinary federal, state, and local security requirements associated with terrorism trials that may begin in 2010 and continue into 2011."

The budget also would allocate $237 million to acquire, renovate, equip and staff a state prison at Thomson, Ill., to house detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

_Pete Yost


Agency: Labor

Spending: $117.5 billion

Percentage change from 2010: 43 percent decrease

Mandatory Spending: $103.5 billion

Highlights: The Labor Department would see a major drop in spending for its unemployment insurance programs. That's because the administration forecasts an economic rebound and expects fewer people to claim unemployment benefits.

At the same time, the budget would boost funds to make the agency's job training programs more effective and find better ways to help young workers find jobs.

The budget continues to increase spending for the department's worker protection agencies — including enforcement of workplace health, safety and wage laws — to return these programs to staffing levels that were in place in 2001, before the Bush administration began making cuts.

The White House projects a savings of about $4 billion over 10 years by cracking down on states that make unauthorized unemployment insurance payments. It also projects saving $300 million over the next decade by targeting employers who evade unemployment taxes.

The new crackdown will focus on employers who misclassify workers as independent contractors to avoid paying taxes. The department will identify certain industries where it believes worker misclassification is rampant and plans to increase audits to make sure taxes are being paid.

The administration is starting a new program to automatically enroll workers in employer pension plans or other retirement accounts to encourage retirement savings. About 78 million Americans lack employer-based retirement plans outside the Social Security system.

Employees could opt out of the program if they didn't want to participate, and small businesses would be exempt.

_Sam Hananel


Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Spending: $19 billion

Percentage change from 2010: 1.5 percent increase

Mandatory Spending: None

Highlights: Obama's budget would kill former President George W. Bush's $100 billion mission to return to the moon, on the seventh anniversary of the space shuttle Columbia disaster. It was that loss of the shuttle that spurred Bush to propose the plan that was nicknamed "Apollo on steroids," but last year an outside panel said the Bush program didn't have enough money to do all it proposed. The budget said repeating the Apollo program 50 years later is "the least attractive approach to space exploration." NASA has already spent $9.1 billion on the program.

Obama's budget promises a "bold new course for human space flight," but provides no details, such as where astronauts would go, in what ship or by when. It extends the life of the International Space Station beyond its 2016 retirement date and provides $6 billion over five years in additional spending, mostly to spur commercial companies to develop still-untested private rocketships. NASA would then buy rides in those ships like taxis.

The budget is much more about spending closer to Earth. It promises a speeding up of launching new Earth's observing satellites, especially to monitor climate change. It includes money to fly a replacement for a carbon dioxide monitoring satellite that fell into the ocean last year instead of going into orbit.

Science spending at NASA would jump by about 12 percent and the agency is doubling what it spends on aeronautics, highlighting programs to reduce pollution from aircraft. Spending on day-to-day space operations, with the upcoming retirement of the space shuttle fleet, and education would go down 20 percent.

_Seth Borenstein


Agency: State

Spending: $63.8 billion

Percentage change from 2010: 2.3 percent decrease

Mandatory Spending: $7.9 billion

Highlights: The budget for the State Department and international affairs includes $4 billion in assistance to Afghanistan and $3.1 billion for Pakistan to be used for reconstruction and to improve governance and combat corruption and extremism. It foresees hiring an additional 500 civilian personnel to work in Afghanistan and Pakistan and provides for increased security at U.S. diplomatic missions in the two countries.

The budget sets aside $2.6 billion for civilian operations in Iraq, where the State Department is assuming responsibility for programs previously handled by the Pentagon, which is drawing down its troop presence there.

The administration is asking for $8.5 billion to expand the president's Global Health Initiative and increases funding to treat and prevent HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other tropical diseases and improve maternal and child health. It is seeking $1.6 billion for agriculture development and nutrition programs and $1.4 billion to help developing nations adapt to climate change and pursue low-carbon development.

The spending plan calls for $446 million to boost the number of Peace Corps volunteers by 50 percent to 11,000 by 2016.

It also includes:

_ $1.9 billion in annual contributions and arrears to regional development banks to support the world's poorest countries.

_ $1.3 billion for new Millennium Challenge Corporation poverty reduction and economic growth programs for countries that meet certain good governance standards.

_Matthew Lee


Agency: Transportation

Spending: $79.2 billion

Percentage change from 2010: 1 percent increase

Mandatory Spending: $56.4 billion

Highlights: Calls for the creation of a $4 billion National Infrastructure Innovation and Finance Fund. Large, expensive projects sometimes have trouble obtaining money, especially if more than one state or local jurisdiction is involved. The fund will target projects that will have the biggest impact on improving transportation or safety, such as replacing aging bridges that limit harbor access or antiquated tunnels that force trains to slow to a crawl.

The fund would be a significant departure from the federal government's traditional means of spending on infrastructure through grants to specific states and localities, often by formulas created by Congress to generate political support for legislation that doesn't take into account that some states or regions might have greater needs. The fund would directly support projects through grants, loans or a blend of both, and seek to leverage private capital.

While campaigning for president, Barack Obama called for creation of a national infrastructure investment bank using seed money from the federal government. The proposed fund would be part of the Transportation Department and wouldn't have the independence of a stand-alone bank. However, it would perform some of the same functions.

In his first budget as president, Obama requested $5 billion for a national infrastructure investment bank, but the proposal has had a hard time winning approval in Congress.

The latest budget proposal also seeks an additional $1 billion for high-speed trains. Last week, Obama announced grants totaling $8 billion to 13 major rail projects across the country. Separately, Congress allocated $2.5 billion for the current budget year ending on Sept. 30.

The proposal also seeks $1.1 billion for FAA's NextGen program, a long-term effort to improve the efficiency, safety and capacity of the air traffic control system by moving from ground-based radar surveillance to a more accurate satellite-based surveillance.

_Joan Lowy


Agency: Treasury

Spending: $560.9 billion.

Percentage change from 2010: 40.1 percent increase.

Mandatory Spending: $546.9 billion

Highlights: The bulk of the Treasury's mandatory spending is for interest on the public debt, an ever increasing component of the federal budget. The estimated interest payment for 2011 is $499 billion. The budget projects that the gross federal debt in 2011 will be $15.1 trillion, up from nearly $12 trillion in 2009.

One reason for the sharp increase from fiscal 2010 to fiscal 2011 is that the estimated mandatory spending for 2010 has been revised downward due to repayments of $114.5 billion from banks that received infusions of government money at the height of the financial crisis.

Treasury also has revised the long-term cost of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program down to $117 billion; the Congressional Budget Office has placed the total cost of the program to taxpayers at $99 billion. In either case, the administration is proposing a fee on large financial institutions to cover that shortfall, whatever it may be. That levy would raise an average of about $9 billion a year. Congress would have to approve the new fee.

Obama plans to ask Congress to use $30 billion from TARP to inject money into small community banks at low rates on the condition the banks use the money to increase lending to small businesses.

_Jim Kuhnhenn


Agency: Veterans Affairs

Spending: $121.7 billion

Percentage change from 2010: 2.6 percent decrease

Mandatory Spending: $64.7 billion

Highlights: Some 2 million veterans have deployed in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The budget proposal would invest nearly $800 million in services targeting veterans who are homeless, in part, through partnerships with private and government groups. It would allocate funds for counseling and medical care for female veterans who are serving at unprecedented levels in the nation's wars. It would also invest $5.2 billion in specialized care for mental health conditions, including traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The president's budget also calls for $50.6 billion in advanced appropriations for VA medical care, to prevent budget delays from hindering planning. This was long sought after by veterans' service organizations, and Obama signed a bill into law last fall allowing advanced appropriations.

The budget also would allow for an increase in enrollment of more than 500,000 moderate-income veterans in the VA system by 2013.

_Kimberly Hefling


Agency: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Spending: $4.9 billion

Percentage change from 2010: 11 percent decrease

Mandatory Spending: None.

Highlights: The corps' 11 percent funding cut would hold spending at roughly the same levels seen during most of the 2000s — just under $5 billion. But the agency, which builds levees and dams around the country and keeps rivers and harbors open for commerce, has been a big recipient of stimulus funding and would get another shot of nearly $1 billion in 2011. That would push its real spending capacity to about $6 billion.

Obama proposed using most of the money on harbor and river projects such as waterway dredging, levee and dam upgrades to prevent flooding, and environmental initiatives such as restoring the Florida Everglades and other coastal wetlands.

Individual priorities are likely to change, however. The agency's budget is notoriously susceptible to parochial influence in Congress, where lawmakers jockey to steer funds to projects benefiting their home districts.

The administration also is calling for changing the way the agency plans and prioritizes its work so that it focuses on critical projects. Similar efforts have fallen flat on Capitol Hill as diverging interests fight over priorities.

In fiscal 2010, the agency was budgeted to spend $5.4 billion. But including stimulus spending the real budget was closer to $7.6 billion.

_Ben Evans

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