Taxpayers for Common Sense

President Trump’s FY19 Budget

With 20 years of experience, TCS staff has combed through the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2019  budget. Here are our takeaways: 

Scroll down to continue presentation

It’s hard to comment on a budget that has so little details and little budget context. This is the President’s initial budget foray, the “skinny” budget, but this budget is more emaciated and starving for details than previous ones.

— Ryan Alexander, president

Billions of Dollars in Rounding Errors

Substantially changes FY2018 discretionary budget caps. Increases Defense cap $54 billion (9.8%) by reducing non-defense discretionary an equal dollar amount. But non-defense discretionary is already lower than defense spending so the $54 billion cut represents (10.5%)

The budget says there’s a 10% increase in defense spending paid for with a 10% reduction in non-defense discretionary. But that’s only if you look at rounding.

A true 10% cut would be $2.4 billion less than what is occurring. (More than the $2 billion in supplemental FY17 funding requested for a new flexible fund to counter-ISIS)

A true 10% increase in defense spending would require $900 million more. (More than the entire budget request for the Small Business Administration)

Cart Before the Horse on Border Wall Spending

Mr. Peno Nieto, Build That Wall! (With apologies to Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev)

The Fiscal Year 2017 Supplemental Appropriation request for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is a cool $3 billion. That’s less than one-tenth of the total supplemental request but is still a considerable increase for a department with a typical budget of roughly $40 billion. Put another way, $3 billion may be loose change in the couch cushions at the Pentagon, but it’s real money at DHS.

And of that $3 billion, just a hair under half of it is for “The Wall.” Specifically, “$1.4 billion for CBP [Customs and Border Protection] Procurement, Construction, and Improvements, including $999 million for planning, design, and construction of the first installment of the border wall, $179 million for access roads, gates, and other tactical infrastructure projects, and $200 million for border security technology deployments.”

At TCS we’ve written a lot about the folly of the CBP wish-list of technologies that have not been properly used or maintained in the past. But it’s galling to think of $1.4 billion of your tax dollars being spent for a wall that the President has consistently stated will be paid for by the Government of Mexico. And this supplemental request was made prior to DHS beginning the evaluation process on the contract proposals from construction companies bidding on the project.

Huh? How does DHS know enough to start paying for a wall when a design for that wall has not yet been approved? This is the cart before the horse and after several failed projects to secure and militarize our southern border, this seems to be a cart and a horse going the wrong way on a one-way street.

Time to stop, take a deep breath, and wait for the right time to start spending money on a wall that hasn’t been designed.

Mum on the Coast Guard

Leading up to the budget release, there were news reports about increased funding for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the border wall possibly paid for in part with a $1.3 billion cut to the Coast Guard (roughly $9 billion annual budget). In what could oddly be a win for the Coast Guard, they are not even mentioned in the document one way or another. We’ll have to wait until May to find out if the nation’s oldest continuous sea-going service receives a cut.