A Closer Look—Trump’s Budget and Civilian IT

BY GREG WARING and DAVID TAYLOR

President Trump’s FY18 Budget proposes a $462 billion appropriations cap for civilian agencies — $54 billion less than the FY18 sequester level mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and about $57 billion less than the FY17 cap.

Congress and the public questioned several of the President’s proposed programmatic cuts and eliminations, including an almost 30 percent cut to State Department and international programs and the elimination of HUD Community Development Block Grants.

The fact that information technology funding increases under the President’s FY18 spending plan — 1.7 percent over estimated FY17 levels and 6 percent over FY16 — is noteworthy. We remain convinced that budget deal later this year will boost spending caps for both defense and non-defense accounts. If that forecast proves accurate, then the FY18 Trump Budget essentially sets a floor on likely IT funding increases with a budget deal creating more resources for federal civilian IT, modernization and infrastructure priorities.

Civilian IT Funding Charts

The President’s budget proposes raising the BCA limit for base defense funding. That proposal includes $42.5 billion for defense IT — a 4.1 percent increase over FY17. Based on current estimates, Trump’s civilian $53.2 billion IT spending plan represents a less than 1 percent reduction from estimated FY17 appropriations. Under the President’s FY18 spending plan, civilian IT represents 11.5 percent of all civilian funding.

FORECAST
Congress approves higher FY18 civilian spending levels than proposed by President Trump, we expect FY18 IT spending to rise as a percentage of civilian agency budgets.

There are two reasons for this forecast.

First, after each recent budget deal — American Tax Payer Relief Act (2012), Ryan-Murray Bipartisan Budget Act (2013), and the Bipartisan Budget Act (2015), information technology funding rose as a percentage of civilian agency spending.

Second, this forecast syncs with OMB Director Mulvaney’s recent guidance to federal agencies on FY19 Budget planning, the Trump Administration’s Government-wide reform agenda, and the President’s May 2017 Cybersecurity Executive Order. In each case, OMB advises agencies to reduce headcount and create efficiencies though shared services and automation. Where the Administration has flexibility to allocate higher FY18 dollars than requested, we expect it to prioritize investments in IT over personnel.

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