How the White House Budget Would Affect Infrastructure and Engineering


The White House released its budget blueprint for FY 2018 last week, signaling its priorities to Congress as it ramps up the annual appropriations process. The White House’s budget would increase defense spending by $54 billion and offset that increase with broad cuts elsewhere in discretionary spending. It will be up to House and Senate Appropriations Committees to decide how much of the President’s budget they wish to adapt.

Some Congressional Republicans have already started pushing back on President Trump’s budget. Rep. Hal Rogers (KY-5), former chair of the House Appropriations Committee, released a statement saying, “While we have a responsibility to reduce our federal deficit, I am disappointed that many of the reductions and eliminations proposed in the President’s skinny budget are draconian, careless and counterproductive…We will certainly review this budget proposal, but Congress ultimately has the power of the purse.” Sen. Charles Grassley (IA) told the Washington Post, “I’ve never seen a president’s budget proposal not revised substantially. As a member of the Budget Committee, I’ll carefully scrutinize and assess priorities as the president has with his proposal.”

Below is an outline of the President’s budget as it relates to infrastructure, scientific research, and science education.

Department of Commerce

  • The budget requests $7.8 billion for the Department of Commerce, a $1.5 billion or 16% decrease from the 2017 annualized Continuing Resolution (CR) level.
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), currently funded at $964 million, receives no direct mention.
  • The Economic Development Administration would be eliminated along with its $221 million budget.
  • Funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership is reduced by $124 million.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would receive a 17% cut to the agency’s $5.6 billion budget

Department of Education

  • The budget requests $59 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Education, a $9 billion or 13% reduction below the 2017 annualized CR level.
  • An additional $1.4 billion has been proposed for school choice programs, Title I funding has been increased slightly and special education (IDEA) funding is retained at the current level.
  • Would eliminate entirely the $2.4 billion Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program, which supports teacher professional development (focusing on STEM areas) as recently authorized by Congress.
  • Would eliminate entirely the $1.2 billion 21st Century Community Learning Centers afterschool program.
  • Does not mention the Title IV, Part A Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants program (we assume no funding is provided for this new program, which is heavily focused on STEM activities).

Department of Energy

  • The budget requests $28 billion for Department of Energy, a $1.7 billion or 5.6% decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level.
  • The Office of Science will lose $900 million of its roughly $5 billion budget, which supports research and development at more than 300 universities and 10 of the U.S.’s 17 national labs.
  • The budget provides $120 million to restart the licensing process for nuclear waste repository activities at Yucca Mountain, with some of those funds allocated for an interim storage program.
  • The budget eliminates the Weatherization Assistance Program and the State Energy Program to reduce federal intervention at the state level.
  • Provides $6.5 billion to the Environmental Management Program to facilitate the cleanup of waste and contamination from energy research and nuclear weapons production, including addressing excess facilities to support modernization of the nuclear security enterprise.

Department of Interior

  • The budget requests $11.6 billion for Department of Interior, a $1.5 billion or 12% decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level
  • The U.S. Geological Survey’s budget request is for more than $900 million, which is currently operating on a budget of $1.062 billion. There are no details on which specific programs will be cut.

Department of Transportation

  • The budget requests $16.2 billion for Department of Transportation’s discretionary budget, a $2.4 billion or 13% decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level.
  • Ends the TIGER grant program, which was authorized as a part of the 2009 stimulus bill to support innovative projects that are difficult to fund through traditional federal programs. In FY16, TIGER provided $485 million to 40 projects.
  • Ends federal funding for long-distance Amtrak service.
  • Eliminates the Essential Air Service Program, a program that subsidizes flights to 175 rural communities that would otherwise not have regular air service.
  • Restricts funding for New Starts (a program which helps fund transit projects that cost over $300 million) to projects with existing full funding grant agreements only.
  • Privatizes air traffic control.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

  • The budget requests $5.7 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency, a savings of $2.6 billion, or 31%, from the 2017 annualized CR level.
  • The primary allocations of funds within the EPA goes towards drinking water and infrastructure improvements, including $20 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program and $2.3 billion for the State Revolving Funds, which provide low-interest loans for investments in water and sanitation infrastructure.
  • Several Obama Administration-era programs including the Clean Power Plan, the Green Climate Fund and other climate change research partnerships will lose all funding.
  • Superfund programs see funding cuts, including a $330 million reduction for the Hazardous Substance Superfund Account and the agency will instead use existing settlement funds to clean up hazardous waste sites in a more efficient manner.
  • Reduces the budget of the Office of Research and Development by $233 million and will discontinue its awarding of STAR grants.
  • Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay, and other geographic programs receive no funding, returning the responsibility for these programs to the states.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

  • Eliminates or reduces state and local grant funding by $667 million for programs administered by FEMA that are either unauthorized by the Congress, such as FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program, or that must provide more measurable results and ensure the federal government is not supplanting other stakeholders’ responsibilities, such as the Homeland Security Grant Program.
  • The budget also proposes establishing a 25% non-federal cost match for FEMA preparedness grant awards that currently require no cost match.

National Science Foundation (NSF)

  • The budget does not mention the NSF’s $7.5 billion broad portfolio of research and education. Presumably, the agency is one component of a line item labeled “other agencies” that is scheduled for a 10% cut.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

  • NASA is funded at $19.1 billion, only a slight decrease from current funding.
  • The budget focuses heavily on space-exploration and public/private partnerships. The proposal would eliminate the Office of Education (cutting $115 million) and makes significant cuts to Earth Science programs ($100 million).

Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)

  • The budget contains no information at all on the White House’s own budget of which OSTP is a part. OSTP does not yet have a director nor given any indication of how large its staff will be.
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