Skinny Budget

Today’s post features a collaboration between guest author Julie Minerva and Scott and Andrea.

This morning the Trump Administration released its America First Budget (aka the Skinny Budget) for FY18. The text of the document contains much of the same rhetoric you heard in the President’s inaugural address as the budget proposes to focus on advancing the safety and security of the American people. Overall the budget proposes to increase spending for the Department of the Defense by $54B and it does this by eliminating or reducing most domestic discretionary budget items by an equivalent amount. For some agencies the America First Budget cuts straight into the bone. For the potential impact to flood protection programs, read on!

With respect to flood risk reduction efforts, there are only two small line items that mention the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and you can find them both on page 50 of this link. For FY18 the President proposes total funding for the Corps at $5B. This is a $1B reduction from the budget that the Corps is operating under the current FY17 CR, but it is actually higher than the $4.62B that President Obama proposed in his FY17 budget proposal. As many have noted from past experience, it is typical for the Administration to low-ball the Corps’ proposed budget knowing that Congress will often increase funding during the appropriations process. This is always a challenge for Congress and the broader cuts in the America First budget won’t make this an easy lift for Congress this year. Nonetheless the Corps, at least initially, seems to be in a better starting position than a lot of other federal agencies. However, truly being on the “skinny” side, today’s budget release does not show how this $5B will be spent so it is unclear how the individual accounts within the Corps will shake out. Based on other statements from the Administration, some of us are guessing that the ecosystem restoration work done by the Corps may suffer the most.  The skinny budget also proposes to eliminate emergency funds for the Corps; but again, Congress typically takes care of that.

The proposal for FEMA is a different story. The Trump Administration proposes to eliminate the annual $190M discretionary funding for the Flood Hazard Mapping Program.  It suggests that other funding sources might be available, such as State or local funds.  It also adds a 25% local match requirement for FEMA grants such as disaster recovery and preparedness grants. The budget further notes that these activities are primarily state and local functions. FEMA’s budget outline is on page 23.

More interesting (and potentially a better predictor of the final budget) will be the more detailed budget predicted to be released sometime in May.  Tune in for breaking news!

Julie Minerva is a Washington, DC based infrastructure advocate who specializes in Civil Works and all things related to the US Army Corps of Engineers. You can find her at: jminerva@carpiclay.com