Monday, June 26, 2017

Trump’s budget plan has billions for border, cuts elsewhere

By on February 28, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump wants billions of dollars to start building a wall at the Mexican border and fund efforts to find, jail and deport immigrants in the country illegally, according to White House budget documents The Associated Press obtained on Tuesday.

The Office and Management and Budget’s financial outline for the Department of Homeland Security also calls on the Coast Guard to scrap the agency’s counterterrorism Maritime Security Response Team, and all of its Maritime Safety and Security Teams. The rationale for the elimination of the programs isn’t spelled out. Trump has made fighting terrorism a top priority and his overall budget outline calls for significant increases in military spending.

The Homeland Security budget outline includes money to start hiring new immigration and border agents. It largely adheres to Trump’s promises to bolster security at the Mexican border and crack down on illegal immigration in the United States.

FILE - In this Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump speaks during a White House senior staff swearing-in ceremony in the East Room of the White House, in Washington. Trump’s economic plans are nothing if not ambitious. Yet even to come anywhere near his goals, economists say Trump would have to surmount at least a half-dozen major hurdles that have long defied solutions. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

(Andrew Harnik, File/AP)

The Department of Homeland Security declined to comment on the documents, which are labeled “pre-decisional” and “not for public release,” referring questions to the White House. The White House didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trump’s overall budget blueprint seeks a $54 billion surge in U.S. military spending for new aircraft, ships and fighters. It also slashes big chunks from domestic programs and foreign aid to make the government “do more with less.” Trump’s first budget is due in more detail to Congress next month. “Topline” figures were released Monday, a day before Trump addresses a joint session of Congress.

If Congress ultimately approves Trump’s budget plans, Homeland Security would see an overall budget increase of about $2.7 billion to roughly $44 billion. That would include nearly $2 billion more for Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s efforts in locating, arresting and deporting immigrants in the country illegally.

Under President Barack Obama‘s last budget, the government had about $3 billion for that task. That included money to jail 34,000 people at any given time. Obama’s immigration authorities deported about 240,000 people during the 2016 budget year that ended in September. Trump has said he intends to increase deportations.

See also: Trump to issue broad call for action on economy, health care

Though the Coast Guard became part of the civilian Homeland Security Department after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the agency is treated as a branch of the military.

According to the Coast Guard’s government website, the Maritime Security Response Team is a “highly specialized resource with advanced counterterrorism skills and tactics.” Scrapping the team, the budget documents show, would save the government about $43 million.

The budget documents also call for cancelling a roughly $500 million new ship, described as “unplanned and unwanted.” According to the Coast Guard website, the ship is under production.

The budget documents do not show how the savings from the Coast Guard cuts would be spent.

VA Secretary: Expect boost to veterans spending

For his part, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin says he expects a spending boost in Trump’s budget for veterans programs. He says his department will likely escape proposed cuts slated for other domestic programs.

Shulkin added he would seek “hundreds” more in exemptions to a federal hiring freeze for his department.

The 57-year-old physician spoke to reporters Tuesday after addressing hundreds of veterans at an American Legion conference.

The president’s preliminary budget blueprint seeks a surge in mostly military spending while slashing domestic programs and foreign aid by about 10%.

Shulkin says VA spending will increase, citing rising demand for veterans care. He stated that the budget will reflect the “president’s commitment to deliver on his promise to make veterans’ care better and stronger and to transform the VA.”

 

This report was written by AP reporters Alicia A. Caldwell and Hope Yen.

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