First Biden Budget Request

Technology programs would see significant increases in funding under the Biden Administration’s first budget plan.

As has become customary, the Biden Administration has released a summary of its first budget request instead of a full budget. The $1.5 trillion dollar plan would radically remake the federal government by providing more to the domestic side of the United States (U.S.) government than any budget request in recent memory.

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It is said budgets are moral documents, and, if so, the new administration seeks wholesale change to U.S. government priorities.

Cocktail Party

This is the first budget request of the post-Budget Control Act of 2011 era with no more caps on discretionary funding. Moreover, this is the first budget request in decades that asks for more funding for domestic programs than defense programs. In all the White House wants $1.521 trillion for discretionary programs for fiscal year (FY) 2022 as compared to the $1.404 trillion Congress and the Trump White House agreed upon for FY 2021. The Biden Administration would end the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), the theoretically off-budget pool of funds used since shortly after the 11 September 2001 attacks to augment the Pentagon’s appropriations with all war operations being paid for through these accounts. And, of course, this budget request’s numbers neither accounts for the $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021” (P.L. 117-2) nor the hoped for infrastructure package currently estimated at between $1.9-2.3 trillion. Yet, what the White House wants, and what the Republicans in the Senate are willing to give will prove two very different things.

Meeting

As acting Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Shalanda Young asserted in her cover letter to Congress:

Overall, the discretionary request would restore non-defense discretionary funding to 3.3 percent of GDP, roughly equal to the historical average over the last 30 years, while providing robust funding for national defense, as well as for other instruments of national power—including diplomacy, development, and economic statecraft—that enhance the effectiveness of national defense spending and promote national security. The discretionary request proposes $769 billion in non-defense discretionary funding in FY 2022, a 16 percent increase over the FY 2021 enacted level, and $753 billion for national defense programs, a 1.7 percent increase.

As framed in the top-line summary of its forthcoming FY 2022 budget request, the White House would propose the types of dramatic domestic funding increases not seen since the first few budgets of the Obama Administration and before that possibly the Great Society budget requests in the mid-1960’s. Notably, the Biden Administration is asking for these dramatic top-line increases:

  • $27.8 billion for the Department of Agriculture, a $3.8 billion or 16-percent increase from the 2021 enacted level.
  • $11.4 billion for the Department of Commerce, a $2.5 billion or 28-percent increase from the 2021 enacted level.
  • $102.8 billion for the Department of Education, a $29.8 billion or 41-percent increase over the 2021 enacted level.
  • $68.7 billion for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a $9 billion or 15-percent increase from the 2021 enacted level.
  • $17.4 billion for the Department of the Interior, a $2.4 billion or 16-percent increase from the 2021 enacted level.
  • $14.2 billion for the Department of Labor, a $1.7 billion or 14-percent increase from the 2021 enacted level.
  • $63.5 billion for the Department of State and other international programs, a $6.8 billion or 12-percent increase from the 2021 enacted level. Within this total, the discretionary request includes $58.4 billion for the Department of State and USAID, an increase of $5.4 billion or 10 percent. This total also includes $3.3 billion for the international programs at the Department of the Treasury, an increase of $1.4 billion or 73 percent.
  • $25.6 billion for the Department of Transportation. This is a $317 million increase over total 2021 enacted funding, but provides a $3.2 billion or 14-percent increase for DOT discretionary programs, excluding General Fund appropriations to traditionally mandatory formula grant programs.
  • $14.9 billion for the Department of Treasury, a $1.4 billion or 10.6-percent increase from the 2021 enacted level.
  • $113.1 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, an $8.5 billion or 8.2-percent increase from the 2021 enacted level.
  • $11.2 billion for Environmental Protection Agency, a $2 billion or 21.3-percent increase from the 2021 enacted level.

As mentioned, the Department of Defense would no longer get to circumvent the budget caps through the use OCO accounts because the caps have expired, and the White House wants OCO to go with them. Nonetheless, the White House is framing military spending as getting a modest bump while the non-military side of foreign policy funding would get a significant boost, signaling the Biden Administration’s shift away from massive requests for the Pentagon and a unilateral foreign policy to a multilateral approach to world affairs.

But, on the political side, Republicans will have tremendous veto power over this request in the same Senate Democrats blocked most of the dramatic funding cuts on the domestic side the Trump Administration proposed annually. At present, it is unlikely Senate Republicans, and possibly some Senate Democrats like Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kirsten Sinema (D-AZ), will support all the funding increases. It is much more likely FY 2022 appropriations will look like FY 2021 appropriations than the Biden Administration request.

Geek Out

Despite the massive infusion of funds for the domestic side of the federal discretionary budget, the agency charged with leading the defense of the civilian networks and information systems would see a small increase. The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency (CISA) would be provided with $2.1 billion, a $110 million increase above FY 2021. The White House noted, however, that this modest raise is augmented by the $650 million given to CISA in the “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.” And while that is true, when the time comes to submit the FY 2023 budget request in February 2022, it is not likely the White House will use the total CISA funding as the basis for its request ($2.1 billion plus $650 million). Moreover, critics will probably use the modest increase to CISA’s funding to argue the Biden Administration is not backing up its talk of better cybersecurity with funding to achieve these goals. Undoubtedly the White House, DHS, and CISA would respond the issue is not a question of funding so much as it is a matter of properly using existing funding levels and authority to drive the owners and operators of much of the U.S. critical cyber infrastructure (i.e., the private sector) to better their cybersecurity. Additionally, since the U.S. government relies on the private sector for much of its critical cyber infrastructure, this approach is sound. However persuasive and accurate that argument may be, it elides the facts the U.S. government has been trying this approach as far back as the Bush and Obama Administrations with massive hacks occurring every few years.

The DOD’s summary does not give one a sense of how the National Security Agency (NSA) and Cyber Command would fare under the Biden Administration’s first budget request. Obviously, these are two vital parts of the national security side of cybersecurity, and some of this funding would not be released as the NSA is among those Intelligence Community agencies whose funding is classified. However, each year the DOD and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence release the Military Intelligence Program (MIP) top line and National Intelligence Program (NIP) requests respectively. In FY 2021, these were $23.1 billion and $61.9 billion, but it is not publicly known how much funding they received, and more to the point about cybersecurity, about how much of those funds were provided to the NSA and related functions at sister agencies. So, this is necessarily a black box.

To no great surprise, the White House is stressing the need for increased federal investment in research & development (R&D) to spur private sector activity and to match the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and other nations sinking much more government funding on a percentage basis into these activities. Given the federal R&D funding mechanism are sprinkled across agencies, the total funding is not readily apparent. For example, one of single biggest sources of R&D funding is housed at the Department of Defense, but the summary provides only narrative details that the “discretionary request prioritizes defense research, development, test, and evaluation funding to invest in breakthrough technologies that would drive innovation and underpin the development of next-generation defense capabilities.”

But elsewhere the White House deals in numbers. The National Science Foundation would see a 21% increase in funding to support research across the sciences, including “computer and information sciences, engineering, geosciences, math and physical sciences, social, behavioral, and economic sciences, and education.” Likewise, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) R&D programs would see a massive increase on a percentage basis of 16% as compared to current funding, but in dollars it is a mere $128 million spike to $916 million. DHS would get $599 million for R&D with no context in the budget request about how that compares to FY 2021. If the funds in question are those provided to DHS’ Science and Technology Directorate, then $599 million would be a huge increase above the $444 million provided in FY 2021.

The Biden Administration is asking for even more funding for the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF), a program established in the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (P.L. 115-91) that was bestowed with a funding increase of $1 billion in the “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021,” a massive boost above the FY 2021 appropriation of $25 million, which was far below the Trump Administration’s request of $150 million. The White House is framing this ask as part of its efforts to bolster federal cybersecurity. It should also be noted in January 2021, the Biden Administration asked Congress to provide $9 billion for the TMF in the American Rescue Plan Act. The TMF is housed at the General Services Administration (GSA) and is administered by the TMF Board that accepts applications for funds from federal agencies to modernize their IT systems. The Federal Chief Information Officer (CIO) chairs the TMF Board, giving the White House significant sway over TMF policy and the recipients of funds.

To provide the flavor of the budget request framing, acting OMB Director Shalanda Young contended domestic funding has been given far less than the historical average and needs a substantial increase:

  • Over the past decade, due in large measure to overly restrictive budget caps, the Nation significantly underinvested in core public services, benefits, and protections. Since FY 2010, non-defense discretionary funding—the area of the Federal budget that funds education, research, public health, and other crucial services—has shrunk significantly as a share of the economy.
  • The consequences of this broad disinvestment are plain to see. We know that anticipating, preparing for, and fighting a global pandemic requires a robust public health infrastructure. Yet, going into the COVID-19 pandemic, funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was 10 percent lower than a decade ago, adjusted for inflation. Creating an economy that works for everyone requires investments in working families who drive growth and prosperity. Yet, the Government has chronically underinvested in crucial programs like Head Start, which serves 95,000 fewer children today than it did a decade ago. Responding to the climate crisis depends on helping communities transition to a cleaner future. But instead of investing in climate science and technology at the Environmental Protection Agency, we’ve cut funding by 27 percent since FY 2010, adjusted for inflation.
  • The President believes now is the time to begin reversing this trend—and the expiration of nearly a decade of budget caps presents a unique opportunity to do so. As the Congress embarks on this year’s appropriations process, the Administration is outlining its discretionary funding request for FY 2022—a package of proposals to help build on efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and improve the public health infrastructure; create an economy that works for everyone; mount a historic, whole-of- Government-approach to combating climate change; advance equity across the Nation and economy; and restore America’s standing around the world.
  • For example, the discretionary request proposes the creation of an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health within the National Institutes of Health. With an initial focus on cancer and other diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s, this major investment in Federal research and development would drive transformational innovation in health research and speed application and implementation of health breakthroughs. The discretionary request also makes a historic investment in the Title I grant program, which would help school districts deliver a high-quality education to students from low- income families. The discretionary request includes major investments to combat climate change, including in energy efficiency, resilience, environmental justice, and research and development. And the request reinvests in civil rights protection at the Department of Justice and across the Federal Government. These are just a handful of the significant new public investments that would result in a healthier, safer, more prosperous, and more just future for all Americans.

Elsewhere in the summary, the Biden Administration explains more of its thinking about how national security funding and programs should fit together:

Counters 21st Century Challenges and Threats. The discretionary request prioritizes the need to counter the threat from China while also deterring destabilizing behavior by Russia. Leveraging the Pacific Deterrence Initiative and working together with allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Department of Defense would ensure that the United States builds the concepts, capabilities, and posture necessary to meet these challenges. Also, to ensure the United States plays a lead role in defending democracy, freedom, and the rule of law, the discretionary request includes a significant increase in resources to strengthen and defend democracies throughout the world, advance human rights, fight corruption, and counter authoritarianism. In addition, to support agencies as they modernize, strengthen, and secure antiquated information systems and bolster Federal cybersecurity, the discretionary request recommends $500 million for the Technology Modernization Fund, an additional $110 million for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and $750 million as a reserve for Federal agency information technology enhancements.

It bears noting the White House folds civilian cybersecurity in with foreign policy and national security concerns, going out of its way to omit the DOD and NSA’s offensive capabilities, a regular feature of Trump Administration budgetary materials and rhetoric. These tea leaves do not necessarily mean the White House is going to shorten the leash the Trump Administration gave the NSA and Cyber Command is deciding upon and conducting offensive operations. Critics of the Obama Administration, including those at the Pentagon and Fort Meade, claimed that White House’s inter-agency process made acting quickly and decisively in cyberspace a near impossibility. There has been speculation the Biden White House may assert more control over such operations, but nothing concrete has come from the administration as of yet.

The Biden Administration again links domestic policy with technology policy in seeing the decline of technology manufacturing as negatively affecting job opportunities and hence the lives of Americans outside urban areas that lack higher education. According to this logic, pumping money into fostering U.S. manufacturing or bringing back such manufacturing would have the salutary effect of boosting Americans’ incomes and improving their lives. The White House argued:

Creating Jobs and Growth—Now and for the Future

Supports a Future Made in America. The President is committed to ensuring the future is Made in America by all of America’s workers. To that end, the discretionary request more than doubles funding for manufacturing programs at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), enabling the establishment of two new Manufacturing Innovation Institutes, in addition to institutes previously launched by the Departments of Defense and Energy. The discretionary request also nearly doubles funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership to boost the competitiveness of small and medium manufacturers.

Renews America’s Commitment to Research and Development. The discretionary request proposes historic increases in funding for foundational research and development across a range of scientific agencies—including the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Department of Energy (DOE), NIST, and others—to help spur innovation across the economy and renew America’s global leadership. These investments would: accelerate discoveries that would transform America’s understanding of the solar system and universe; launch the next generation of satellites to study and improve life on Earth; and support upgrades to cutting-edge scientific user facilities at the DOE National Laboratories to build climate and clean energy research programs and train the next generation of scientists at HBCU and MSI.

Invests in a 21st Century Infrastructure. The discretionary request makes investments that set the stage for an ambitious, comprehensive reform and investment strategy to: build back better America’s highway, transit, and rail systems nationwide; make historic investment in safety, equity, and climate change mitigation; and foster neighborhood-oriented investments that transform America’s infrastructure, reconnect communities, and provide opportunities to all Americans. The discretionary request would make passenger rail a viable and competitive low- carbon transportation option for intercity travel, as well as expand high quality transit to help communities better link workers to jobs, reduce highway congestion, and shorten commute times. Funding would also be provided to accelerate the transition to clean energy alternatives for the Nation’s public transit bus fleet, and ensure continued safe management of the national airspace system, including integrating new technology.

Invests in High-Quality Workforce Training Programs. The discretionary request proposes significant new investments to build a strong workforce and increase opportunities for men and women who too often have been left behind. For example, the discretionary request significantly expands funding to support Registered Apprenticeship, a proven learn-and-earn model, while also investing in other key workforce programs to ensure that businesses have the skilled and diverse workforce they need and workers have multiple pathways to the middle class.

In the following excerpts, the Biden Administration highlighted a range of technology programs and funding:

Department of Agriculture

  • Expands Broadband Access. Rural Americans are more than 10 times likelier than urban residents to lack access to quality broadband, with particular challenges for tribal communities. The discretionary request provides an increase of $65 million over the 2021 enacted level for Reconnect, the Rural e-Connectivity Program which provides a down payment for grants and loans to deploy broadband to unserved areas, prioritizing tribal lands. High-speed internet would serve as an economic equalizer for rural America, while the work of installing broadband would create high-paying union jobs with benefits in rural communities. This investment would build on the funding provided in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

Department of Commerce

  • Supports a Future Made in America. To ensure the security and resilience of the Nation’s supply chain and foster a robust resurgence of American manufacturing, the discretionary request includes $442 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) manufacturing programs—more than doubling the 2021 enacted level. This increase includes $150 million to fully fund two new Manufacturing Innovation Institutes (MIIs), one of which is aimed at restoring the United States as a global leader in the design and manufacture of semiconductors. These MIIs would complement additional institutes launched by the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy as part of the growing Manufacturing USA network. The discretionary request also expands the Manufacturing Extension Partnership by providing $275 million, an increase of $125 million over the 2021 enacted level, to make America’s small and medium manufacturers more competitive and strengthen domestic supply chains.
  • Spurs Research and Technological Innovation. The discretionary request includes a historic investment in American technological and scientific competitiveness. It provides $916 million, an increase of $128 million over the 2021 enacted level, to expand scientific and technological research at NIST, helping to spur a number of research advances in climate-resilient building codes, computing, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence, quantum information science, biotechnology, and advanced manufacturing, and to establish prize competitions to pursue key technology goals to benefit all Americans. It also includes $39 million for advanced communications research at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which would support the development and deployment of broadband and 5G technologies by identifying innovative approaches to spectrum sharing.
  • Provides Adequate Funding for Staffing to Support Export Controls and Secure Telecommunications. The discretionary request ensures Commerce has additional staff and resources to analyze export control and Entity List proposals, enforce related actions, and implement executive actions related to export controls and secure telecommunications.

Department of Defense

  • The Department of Defense (DOD) is responsible for the military forces needed to deter war and ensure the Nation’s security. The 2022 discretionary request provides the resources to: defend America and deter adversaries while ensuring America is positioned for strategic competition; support America’s servicemembers and their families; repair and leverage alliances and partnerships; preserve America’s technological edge; bolster economic competitiveness; and combat 21st Century security threats such as climate change.
  • The President’s 2022 discretionary request includes $715 billion for DOD. The discretionary request also discontinues requests for Overseas Contingency Operations as a separate funding category, instead funding direct war costs and enduring operations in the DOD base budget, a significant budgetary reform. It:
    • Deters China. The discretionary request prioritizes the need to counter the threat from China as the Department’s top challenge. The Department would also seek to deter destabilizing behavior by Russia. Leveraging the Pacific Deterrence Initiative and working together with allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, DOD would ensure that the United States builds the concepts, capabilities, and posture necessary to meet these challenges.
    • Supports Defense Research and Development. DOD plays an important role in Federal research and development that spurs innovation, yields high-value technology, ensures American dominance against near-peer adversaries, and creates good-paying jobs. The discretionary request prioritizes defense research, development, test, and evaluation funding to invest in breakthrough technologies that would drive innovation and underpin the development of next-generation defense capabilities.

Department of Homeland Security

  • Improves Federal Cybersecurity across Government. The discretionary request responds, in a variety of ways, to funding challenges precipitated by recent cybersecurity incidents. The discretionary request provides $2.1 billion, a $110 million increase from the 2021 enacted level, for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which builds on the $650 million provided for CISA in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. This funding would allow CISA to enhance its cybersecurity tools, hire highly qualified experts, and obtain support services to protect and defend Federal information technology systems. The discretionary request also provides $20 million for a new Cyber Response and Recovery Fund.
  • Responds to Domestic Terrorism. The discretionary request provides a total of
    $131 million to support diverse, innovative, and community-driven methods to prevent domestic terrorism while respecting civil rights and liberties. This funding, which builds on the 2021 enacted level, supports critical research on the root causes of radicalization and enhanced community outreach. The discretionary request includes $20 million for grants to build local capacity to prevent targeted violence and all forms of terrorism, in addition to approximately $75 million available under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Homeland Security Grant Program. These investments complement those that the discretionary request includes for the Department of Justice.
  • Revitalizes Research and Development Capacity. The discretionary request proposes $599 million for investments in research, development, and innovation across the Department, to lay a strong foundation for securing the American public from future threats. These projects would focus primarily on climate resilience, cybersecurity data analytics, and transportation security technologies.

The Department of Justice

  • Protects American Next Generation Research and Development. To maintain American leadership in emerging technology, which underpins America’s innovation, economic competitiveness, and national security, the United States must prevent adversaries from transferring intellectual property through theft and coercion. Within the discretionary request, DOJ would devote adequate resources to protect U.S. Government- supported Research and Development (R&D) against foreign government interference and exploitation, while maintaining the open and collaborative nature of the U.S. R&D enterprise.

The Department of Veterans Affairs

  • Modernizes VA Information Technology. The discretionary request includes $4.8 billion in total resources for VA’s Office of Information Technology to pilot application transformation efforts, support cloud modernization, deliver efficient information technology services, and enhance customer service experience.
  • Advances VA’s Electronic Health Program. The discretionary request includes
    $2.7 billion to continue modernizing VA’s Electronic Health Record to ensure veterans receive world-class healthcare well into the future.

General Services Administration

  • Strengthens Federal Cybersecurity. The COVID-19 pandemic and the significant cyber incident impacting agencies through products such as SolarWinds, continue to highlight the urgent need to modernize Federal technology, with particular emphasis on mission essential systems and citizen-facing digital services. The discretionary request includes $500 million for the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) to strengthen Federal cybersecurity and retire antiquated legacy technology systems. The discretionary request for the TMF builds on the $1 billion provided in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

National Science Foundation

  • The President’s 2022 discretionary request includes $10.2 billion for NSF, a $1.7 billion or 20-percent increase from the 2021 enacted level.
    • Enhances Fundamental Research and Development. The discretionary request provides $9.4 billion, an increase of $1.6 billion above the 2021 enacted level, to support research across the spectrum of science, engineering, and technology, including biological sciences, computer and information sciences, engineering, geosciences, math and physical sciences, social, behavioral, and economic sciences, and education.
    • Strengthens U.S. Leadership in Emerging Technologies. The discretionary request establishes a new Directorate for technology, innovation, and partnerships within NSF to help translate research into practical applications. 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.

© Michael Kans, Michael Kans Blog and michaelkans.blog, 2019-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael Kans, Michael Kans Blog, and michaelkans.blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

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