WASHINGTON -- A look at what President Barack Obama has requested in his $3.73 trillion budget for the 2012 fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
Spending: $18.7 billion
Percentage Change from 2011: 0.9 percent decrease
Discretionary Spending: $18.7 billion
Highlights: Obama's space budget is about the same as the previous year, avoiding the major proposed cuts other agencies are facing, partly because of the long planned retirement of the space shuttle fleet. With Obama continuing a Bush administration decision to stop flying the 30-year-old shuttles, NASA can then shift the couple billion dollars it has been spending yearly to launch shuttles to other projects. However, NASA will have to spend more than half a billion dollars on a pension plan payment for private company workers who helped launch the shuttle.
It's how that other money will be spent that has already put Obama's NASA on a collision course with Congress. Obama wants to spend $850 million to help private companies develop their own space taxis that will eventually replace the shuttle and the Russian Soyuz as the way to get astronauts to the International Space Station. Congress has repeatedly tried to cut commercial crew spaceship aid. On the other side, Congress has ordered NASA to speed up development of a heavy-lift rocket to get astronauts out of Earth's orbit and on the way to an asteroid, the moon and Mars. NASA has put $1.8 billion in its budget proposal for that, but said they cannot build the rocket in time for a 2016 launch as Congress wants.
NASA continues to wrestle with the overbudget James Webb Space Telescope, which eventually will replace the Hubble telescope, cutting $64 million from the budget as it tries to get costs under control. The agency is still trying to figure when it will be launched and what its total cost will be.
Agency: Veterans Affairs
Spending: $129 billion
Percentage Change from 2011: 4.5 percent increase
Discretionary Spending: $58.8 billion
Highlights: More than 2.2 million service members have deployed for war since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The budget proposal would provide $208 million in aid to caregivers who are family members of the severely wounded from the recent wars. It's part of a law signed last year by President Barack Obama. It would invest $183 million to help jumpstart VA's effort to reduce its massive claims backlog that's left veterans waiting months or years for a benefit check by starting to implement a paperless claims system. It would invest $939 million to help expand services for homeless veterans through private and public partnerships. It also would provide $6 billion for programs targeting the mental health needs of veterans, including those with traumatic brain injury. The proposed budget would cut spending for construction. House Veterans' Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller, a Republican, has promised to do a thorough review of spending at the VA.
Spending: $128.6 billion
Percentage Change from 2011: 68 percent increase
Discretionary Spending: $13.4 billion
Highlights: Obama is calling for spending $556 billion over six years for highway, transit and passenger rail construction, as well as safety programs. That includes $53 billion for high-speed trains in addition to the $10.5 billion already committed for train projects. High-speed rail is one of Obama's signature programs, but the budget proposal puts him on a collision course with House Republicans. They voted last week to cut $1 billion for fast trains from the current budget.
The last long-term government transportation construction program expired on Oct. 1, 2008. The administration and Congress have kept the program limping along through a series of short-term extensions that included dipping into the general treasury for funds. What's not in the president's budget is an increase in federal gasoline and diesel taxes to pay for construction. Obama's deficit commission recommended as much as a 15 cent increase phased in over several years. Both the White House and congressional leaders see a gas tax increase as a political nonstarter.
To help pay for highway and transit construction, the administration proposes using $30 billion of the $556 billion as seed money to start up a national infrastructure bank that would make loans to major transportation projects.
Industry and labor have been pushing for increased spending on road, rail and transit projects to help generate jobs and reduce costly traffic congestion. Two blue-ribbon commissions have predicted nightmarish congestion without a major national effort to repair and improve the nation's transportation system.
The budget proposal also would reduce funds for airport construction by $1.1 billion -- nearly a third -- by eliminating grants to large and medium hub airports. In exchange, it would give larger airports the power to increase the fees charged to airline passengers. Passengers pay a fee for each airport they pass through, including when they change planes. Currently, airports are allowed to charge up to $4.50, although not all of them do. The airline industry is opposed increasing airport fees, which are added to the ticket price passengers pay.
Spending: $73.6 billion
Percentage Change from 2011: 0.7 percent decrease
Discretionary Spending: $58.9 billion
Highlights: Hillary Rodham Clinton's State Department is spared major cuts hitting other government agencies, with a decrease of less than one percent from the previous year. The budget proposal maintains significant funds for programs in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as Iraq, where U.S. diplomats will face serious challenges as American troops continue to withdraw.
The proposed budget calls for slight increases in global development assistance and the Peace Corps but also foresees reductions for development funds in Africa and Latin America. It would eliminate direct military assistance for five countries and military training programs for nine countries to focus those funds on front-line states with strategic significance, the department said. It also would reduce economic assistance for east European and Central Asian countries.
Despite the overall cut and only modest increases in some programs, the department's budget is targeted for slashing by the GOP-controlled House. Clinton has been making the rounds on Capitol Hill seeking support for the proposal, arguing that it is a critical time for America to project global leadership and not retreat.
Spending: $727 billion
Percentage Change from 2011: 5.8 percent decrease
Discretionary Spending: $671 billion
Highlights: The Pentagon's proposed budget for 2012 includes more than $117.8 billion to cover the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a decrease from the nearly $160 billion for 2011. That change provides the bulk of the budget decrease for the department and would be the smallest amount spent on the wars since 2006.
Congress' failure to pass a 2011 budget, however, has complicated matters, prompting Defense Secretary Robert Gates to accuse lawmakers of dumping a crisis on his doorstep. The Pentagon is restricted to spending at 2010 budget levels, jeopardizing the military's effort to send more surveillance and attack drones into Afghanistan, as well as stymieing plans to buy a new Navy submarine, Army combat helicopters and other major weapons systems, according to the services.
Gates has rolled out a broad plan to scale back defense spending by $78 billion over the next five years, by shrinking the size of the Army and Marine Corps, cutting some military weapons, increasing health care premiums for military retirees and their families, and trimming administrative costs.
Spending: $11.8 billion
Percentage Change from 2011: 4.4 percent decrease
Discretionary Spending: $12 billion
Highlights: Obama's budget provides about $12 billion for Interior, roughly the same as the current year. The budget would increase spending for oversight of offshore oil and gas drilling, in response to the BP oil spill. The proposal includes $500 million to restructure the new Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, which was formed after the April spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the worst offshore oil spill in the nation's history. The money would allow the agency formerly known as the Minerals Management Service to hire hundreds of new oil and gas inspectors, engineers, scientists and others to oversee industry operations; conduct detailed engineering reviews of offshore drilling; and more closely review oil spill response plans.
The budget also would increase spending for land and water conservation. Savings are achieved through decreases in spending for the U.S. Geological Survey, construction programs for national parks and wildlife refuges and some tribal programs.
The budget supports development of new solar, wind, and other alternative energy sources.
Spending: $30.9 billion
Percentage Change from 2011: 5.1 percent decrease
Discretionary Spending: $20.9 billion
Highlights: The proposed Justice Department budget focused on financial crime and the ongoing threat of terrorism inside the United States.
In the national security arena, the department has proposed substantially improving intelligence gathering by supporting a high-value interrogation group targeting terrorist suspects.
The department also proposed continuing funding for the attorney general's financial fraud task forces, which have targeted more than 500 criminal and civil defendants over fraud schemes that have harmed more than 120,000 victims nationwide. Losses exceed $10 billion.