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Monday, March 4, 2024

A look at Obama’s 2011 budget for govt agencies

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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: 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.

Agency: Defense Department

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.

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.

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 $600 million, double the current amount, to fund the hiring of additional police officers nationwide.

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.

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.

The 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.

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.

© 2010 Associated Press. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.

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