“It’s a little [about $19 billion] more than what President Obama had projected for 2018 … and less than defense hawks in Congress,” said Todd Harrison, the Director of Defense Budget Analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “It’s in line with what you’re expecting to see.”
[ Trump to propose 10 percent spike in defense spending, major cuts to other agencies]
This increase, like most of the defense budget, is discretionary, meaning it’s funded by budget resolutions passed by Congress and signed by the president. Other portions of the budget, most notably Social Security and Medicare, are mandatory (sometimes called nondiscretionary). With these programs, the authority to spend money is included in the law itself, so Congress doesn’t have to explicitly fund it. In most cases, then, the cost is determined by the size of the benefit and the eligible population, rather than dictated by the law.
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Trump’s proposed increase to the defense budget:
$54 billion
Current defense budget:
$561 billion
Trump’s plan to fund this increase, let alone a likely tax cut, was left ambiguous — he said he would cut some discretionary funding, with little specification of which programs would be affected.
And whether the increase will happen isn’t clear, either. This announcement doesn’t constitute a budget proposal, much less an actual budget. It’s the opening act of a months-long production that will involve intense negotiations with Congress.
Trump said he would leave Social Security and Medicare untouched, which could run into trouble with Republican leadership, who have long advocated cutting costs by reforming these programs. And raising defense spending while lowering non-defense spending conflicts with the 2011 Budget Control Act sequestration limits imposed on both types of spending. To change that law or pass the budget, Trump would probably have to get a handful of Democrats on board.
Trump’s success on those points could hinge on where — and whether — Trump plans to make up for that $54 billion. Much of the emphasis from Trump and other Republicans has been on small programs such as foreign aid, public broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts. “The examples that they’ve given don’t get you to the full $54 billion,” said Joel Friedman, the vice president for federal fiscal policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Programs that some Republicans want to cut:
National Endowment
for the Arts
National Endowment
for the Humanities
Corporation for
Public Broadcasting
Protection Agency
Includes PBS
and NPR
and Humanitarian
foreign aid
foreign aid
If Congress follows Trump’s lead and doesn’t alter Social Security and Medicare, it would  be putting aside a huge portion of the budget where it could make up for the $54 billion increase. Those programs combined make up about 40 percent of the government’s spending, and experts say that share will probably continue to grow.
“More people become elderly and eligible, and it … gives each generation higher benefits than the previous generations,” said Eugene Steuerle, a fellow at the Urban Institute. “All the growth in government spending goes towards Social Security, health … and interest on the debt.”
Trump says he
won’t cut these
Social Security
$976 billion
$605 billion
In 2017, programs aside from defense were budgeted $532 billion in discretionary funds, meaning they would have to take a 10 percent cut to even out the $54 billion defense spending increase. But in many cases, individual programs — whose functions include job training, scientific research and international diplomacy — could see much deeper cuts as Trump and congressional Republicans dictate priorities.
Cuts of this magnitude “would have a major effect on just about any program,” Friedman said. “The real concern is that this is one part of the budget where we make a significant amount of investments in the future — both towards promoting economic growth .. and in human capital,” so the full brunt of the impact won’t be felt for years. Steuerle agreed: “We’re on a budget for a declining economy.”
2017 budget, excluding Defense, Medicare and Social Security:
Includes the small
programs mentioned above
$2.1 trillion
$100M discretionary
$100M mandatory
Natural resources
and environment
Science, space
and technology
Community and
regional development
Includes Congress,
federal buildings and
election administration
Primarily used to grow the economy
in low-income areas and includes FEMA
Includes NASA
Education, training, employment
and social services
Law enforcement
and justice
International affairs
Includes border security,
federal prisons and
civil litigation
Interest on the debt
Veterans benefits and services
Commerce and
housing credit
Includes public housing
and government
employee pensions
About two-thirds of this
pays for Medicaid
Income security
Where Trump said
he would make
cuts to fund the
budget increase
Of these, total discretionary funds add up to:
$532 billion
equivalent to
proposed increase to
the defense budget
These proposed budget changes have a long road ahead — months of negotiations and a final vote. Though it’s possible Senate rules could change, as it stands, Republicans would need 60 votes to pass these changes. The party holds 52 seats.
“Democrats aren’t going to support this,” Harrison said. “[The budget change] is unlikely to happen.”