Obama unveils $5.7 trillion election-shaping US Budget

Copies of President Obama's Fiscal Year 2017 Budget on sale at the Government Publishing Office bookstore in Washington, DC on Tuesday. Mr Obama said the plan, which covers spending on everything from cyber security to the environment, will advance U
Copies of President Obama's Fiscal Year 2017 Budget on sale at the Government Publishing Office bookstore in Washington, DC on Tuesday. Mr Obama said the plan, which covers spending on everything from cyber security to the environment, will advance US security and prosperity for many years to come. But the Republicans who control Congress have vowed to draft their own plan.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

WASHINGTON • Mr Barack Obama unveiled the last Budget of his presidency, a record US$4.1 trillion (S$5.7 trillion) plan that is dead-on- arrival in Congress but could shape the 2016 White House race.
 

Legislatively, the future looks bleak for Mr Obama's 2017 fiscal plan, which covers spending on everything from cyber security to the environment. It includes big-ticket investments in America's creaking infrastructure - to the tune of US$320 billion over the next decade - and ramps up research into clean energy technologies and cancer.

But the Republicans who control Congress have already vowed to draft their own plan.

Still, the Budget provides Mr Obama with one of his few remaining opportunities to fashion national and Democratic party priorities.

"The Budget that we are releasing today reflects my priorities and the priorities that I believe will help advance security and prosperity in America for many years to come," Mr Obama said.

CATCHING UP ON CYBER SECURITY

It is no secret that too often government IT is like an Atari game in an Xbox world.

US PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, in a column in The Wall Street Journal. He unveiled a cyber security "national action plan" calling for an overhaul of ageing government networks and a high-level commission to boost security awareness.

It is brimming with measures designed to wean the US off fossil fuels, including a US$10-a-barrel levy on crude.

A "computer science for all" programme would give schools US$4 billion to teach a "new basic skill" and help modernise workforce skills.

Looking farther afield, the proposal will include US$7.5 billion - a 50 per cent increase from the previous year - to fund the campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group.

The Budget would also invest more than US$19 billion in cyber security, a 35 per cent jump, with US$3 billion earmarked to help modernise the patchwork of computer systems used in government agencies.

"It is no secret that too often government IT is like an Atari game in an Xbox world," Mr Obama said in a column in The Wall Street Journal. "The Social Security Administration uses systems and code from the 1960s. No successful business could operate this way," he said.

The Pentagon on Tuesday proposed a US$582.7 billion defence budget that emphasises emerging threats from Russia, China and ISIS.

The proposal would also quadruple funds to counter Russian pressure in Europe, including its seizure of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula and repeated strategic bomber flights near Nato airspace.

The defence budget heralds a strategic shift as Washington looks beyond the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and enters a new period of great power competition from Russia and China as well as threats from smaller rivals like Iran and North Korea, officials said.

Overall, the administration is seeking a Pentagon base budget of US$523.9 billion for the fiscal year beginning on Oct 1, plus US$58.8 billion for war funding and overseas operations, a small increase from this year.

The Budget provides Mr Obama with an opportunity to draw sharp contrast with the Republicans as the November General Election looms.

"Clearly, Republicans are not interested in hearing about a Budget that invests in the future and grows the wages of hard-working Americans," said House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Republicans appeared happy to draw their own contrasts. "This isn't even a Budget so much as it is a progressive manual for growing the federal government at the expense of hard-working Americans," said House Speaker Paul Ryan.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2016, with the headline 'Obama unveils $5.7 trillion election-shaping US Budget'. Print Edition | Subscribe