Civilian agencies would see a 16% spending boost under Biden’s 2022 budget

Federal civilian agencies are the big winners in President Joe Biden’s 2022 budget request, which administration officials previewed Friday.

The president’s 2022 budget request calls for $769 billion in non-defense discretionary spending, a 16% increase over 2021 levels, and $753 billion for defense programs.

Defense programs will see a modest 1.7% spending bump in 2022, which administration officials said would largely cover pay increases for military members and the civilian employees who support them.

The administration didn’t specify what the 2022 pay increase would be. Biden is considering a 2.7% federal pay raise for civilian employees, which Federal News Network first reported last week.

“For the past decade, due to overly restrictive budget caps, our country has under-invested in core public services, benefits and protections that are incredibly important to our success,” an administration official told reporters Friday. “Since 2010, non-defense discretionary has shrunk significantly as a share of the U.S. economy.”

“This administration believes now is the time to begin reversing this trend and reinvesting in the foundations of our country’s strength.”

Friday’s release is only a preview of the Biden administration’s 2022 budget request. It will release the full 2022 proposal in the “months ahead,” administration officials said.

“This is something we hope will start a conversation about the right size of non-defense discretionary [spending],” the official said. “You’ve seen budget deals happen every two years during the Budget Control Act because there was a bipartisan awareness that we were not investing the right amounts into those programs. However, we were still very limited in what we could invest and this budget is intended to right the shop, so to say, in a lot of areas that both parties have shown historic interest in.”

Biden’s request is in stark contrast to those of the previous administration, where defense spending outmatched funding for civilian agencies, and many departments faced cuts in the double digits.

There will be no Overseas Contingency Operations fund, which Biden administration officials described as a “budgetary gimmick.” Instead, the president wants to shifts funds previously designated under OCO to base discretionary funding.

Civilian agencies see big spending boosts

Nearly all major civilian agencies would see significant spending increases under Biden’s budget proposal.

Funding would increase for the Department of Health and Human Services, for example, by 23.5% over 2021 levels under Biden’s 2022 budget request.

The proposal includes $8.7 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the largest budget boost for the agency in nearly two decades. The Biden administration said the funding is needed to “restore capacity to the world’s preeminent public health agency.”

The administration made several references to lost capacity at civilian agencies, including the Interior Department, where spending would increase by 16% over 2021 levels, and the Environmental Protection Agency, where funding would go up by 21.3%.

“EPA has lost nearly 1,000 staff over the past four years, impacting the agency’s ability to carry out its core duties and functions to protect public health and the environment,” Biden’s budget preview reads. “The discretionary request invests over $110 million to restore EPA’s critical staff capacity and to rebuild programmatic capabilities that focus on protecting clean air, land, and water.”

The Commerce Department would see a 28% spending increase, while funding would rise by a whooping 41% for the Education Department.

Spending would go up by 10.6% at the Treasury Department and 10.4% at the IRS, according to Biden’s 2022 budget proposal. Most of the additional IRS funding would go toward customer service improvements, as well as a multi-year initiative to improve tax compliance and oversight.

More money for cyber, climate initiatives and VA research

Biden’s 2022 budget, in many ways, is a reflection of the administration’s broad priorities on public health, climate change, research and racial equity, among others. Not investing in these programs, the administration said, has consequences in plain sight.

Under Biden’s budget, federal agencies, for example, would receive more funding for their civil rights offices.

The General Services Administration would receive $300 million to buy electric vehicles and upgrade the agency’s charging infrastructure, while 18 federal agencies as a whole would get an additional $300 million to electrify their own vehicle fleet.

GSA would also receive up to $2 billion to repair federal buildings, provide more efficient office space, reduce the government’s carbon footprint and prepare for the impacts of climate change.

The administration is also recommending a $500 million investment for the technology modernization fund on top of the $1 billion included in the American Rescue Plan.

Unlike previous years, funding for the Department of Homeland Security would stay relatively flat,  though it does include additional spending for cybersecurity initiatives.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency would get an additional $110 million over 2021 levels to improve its tools, hire more talent and procure more support services to protect and defend federal IT networks.

The request also includes $20 million for a new cyber response and recovery fund, though the administration didn’t provide more details.

DHS would receive $1.2 billion for border infrastructure. The administration’s request includes no extra funding for border wall construction and proposes canceling prior-year balances that are unobligated by the end of this year.

The Department of Veterans Affairs would see an 8.2% spending boost in 2022, though the agency has experienced several consecutive years of funding increases during both of the last two administrations.

The department would receive an additional $4.8 billion to modernize its IT programs, continue cloud infrastructure investments and improve customer service initiatives, as well as an extra $2.7 billion for its electronic health record modernization effort.

In addition, the Veterans Benefits Administration would receive an additional $40.3 million to hire 334 new benefits claim processors, who will help process disability claims for three new Agent Orange presumptive conditions.

More research investments, a new ‘ARPA’

Biden’s 2022 budget proposal makes several significant investments in federal research programs and the agencies that oversee them.

NASA’s budget, for example, would see a 6.3% increase, while spending at the National Science Foundation would go up 20% over 2021 levels.

The 2022 budget establishes a brand new directorate for technology, innovation, and partnerships within NSF.

“The directorate would work with programs across the agency and with other existing federal and non-federal entities to expedite technology development in emerging areas that are crucial for U.S. technological leadership, including artificial intelligence, high performance computing, disaster response and resilience, quantum information systems, robotics, advanced communications technologies, biotechnology and cybersecurity,” the budget preview reads.

At VA, the Biden administration called for an additional $882 million for medical and prosthetic research, the largest in history.

DHS would receive $599 million for research and development projects, which the administration would focus primarily on climate resilience, cybersecurity data analytics and transportation security technologies.

And perhaps most notably, the Biden administration is proposing a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, known as ARPA-H. The initiative would be housed within the National Institutes of Health and would focus on cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other major health research and development projects.

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