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President Trump’s FY 18 Proposed Budget: Some Qs and Some As

March 17, 2017

The following is an initial attempt to offer some responses to questions the Alliance has been receiving about the President’s proposed budget for FY 18:

Q. How far-reaching are the President’s FY 18 proposals?

A. Under the President’s proposals, DHHS would sustain a 16.2% cut from FY 17 to FY 18. The comparable cut at the Department of Agriculture is closer to 20%. While $54 billion is the aggregate amount being shifted from non-defense programs to defense, the actual number is higher because some non-defense programs are targeted for increases.

Q. What does the President do next?

A. OMB and the agencies are working against a May deadline to produce a complete request with all the program descriptions, numbers, and tables for the entire Federal government. This is an enormous undertaking. Just FDA’s portion of the President’s request usually runs several hundred pages of detail. This contrasts sharply with the single paragraph about FDA in today’s budget release.

Q. Where are the appropriators in this process?

A. As appropriations staff constantly remind us: the President proposes and the Congress disposes. Between now and the full President’s request in May, the appropriations committees will be holding hearings on each agency in its jurisdiction. Following that, subcommittees will start developing working drafts of their agency allocations. By May/June, a number of subcommittees may have held mark-ups. The appropriations calendar is always set-up for fast action, but many years it falls behind. However, nothing can happen on the President’s budget request and the funding of federal agencies without both the House and Senate agreeing.

Q. Does the President’s initial budget request address the FDA’s food safety programs?

A. No. The initial budget request is an outline that covers “highlights” of what the President intends and is largely constructed to show where major cuts are likely to come. It is neither comprehensive nor definitive. Not being mentioned provides no information as to whether food safety will receive more, less, or the same funding in FY 18 than it did in FY 17.

Q. Why did the Alliance conclude that adding $1 billion annually in medical products user fees was intended as an offset for budget authority appropriations?

A. In the context of the President proposing $54 billion in non-defense program cuts, we can think of no other purpose for an extremely large and totally unplanned increase in user fees than to derive a roughly similar amount in savings from budget authority. $900 million would represent a third of the agency’s BA appropriation. As noted in our statement, the proposal is neither wise nor realistic. We would be delighted if this ill-conceived and impractical idea — to cut BA appropriations and replace it with user fees — turned out to be a trial balloon and precipitates so much opposition that OMB reconsiders by the time the full budget emerges in May.

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