Trump's budget boosts 'hard power'

WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump proposed drastic cuts in spending on the arts, science, foreign aid and environmental protection yesterday, in a security-focused Budget blueprint that could struggle to pass Congress.

Translating hardline campaign promises into dollar-and-cent commitments, the Republican leader proposed scrapping dozens of programmes in areas such as public broadcasting and climate funding, while boosting Pentagon spending by US$52 billion (S$73 billion).

Mr Trump's broad-brush proposal covers only a small fraction of the US$3.8 trillion federal budget, which is dominated by healthcare, pension and other costs. The text will be heavily revised and fleshed out by Congress, before a full Budget is released around May.

"This is a hard-power budget, it is not a soft-power budget," said White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney.

Mr Trump, in the preface to the spending proposal, described it as "a Budget that puts America first", and that makes safety and security the "number one priority - because without safety, there can be no prosperity".

The State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be the biggest losers, seeing their funding reduced by around a third. Mr Trump asked Congress to slash funding for the EPA by US$2.6 billion, or more than 31 per cent, and for the State Department by more than 28 per cent, or US$10.9 billion.

That could be a harbinger of steep reductions in foreign aid and funding to United Nations agencies, with knock-on effects around the world.

The Pentagon would be the major winner if Mr Trump's proposed spending priorities go through, with a nearly 10 per cent boost - which would create a defence Budget already bigger than that of the next seven nations combined.

Separately, Mr Trump wants Congress to shell out US$1.5 billion for the border wall with Mexico in the current fiscal year - enough for pilot projects to determine the best way to build it - and a further US$2.6 billion in fiscal 2018.

The estimate of the full cost of the wall will be in the full Budget. Mr Trump has repeatedly declared that Mexico will pay for the wall.

The Department of Homeland Security would get a 6.8 per cent increase, with more money for extra staff needed to catch, detain and deport illegal immigrants.

Mr Trump's Budget outline does not include his promise to pour US$1 trillion into roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects. The White House has said that the infrastructure plan is still to come.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2017, with the headline 'Trump's budget boosts 'hard power''. Print Edition | Subscribe