DoD, VA, DHS among big gainers in '11 budget

VA and DHS will see among the biggest increases of any non-Defense agencies. DHS would receive $43.6 billion, up from $39.4 billion this year, including a $500 million increase for management — half of which is earmarked for the new DHS headquarters at the St. Elizabeths campus in Washington. Obama also requested a $600 million increase for the Transportation Security Administration, which will fund the purchase of more than 1,000 new advanced screening systems.

VA would get $57.0 billion under Obama's request, up from $53.0 billion this year — and 20 percent higher than its $47.6 billion budget from 2009.

DHS and VA are both exempt from Obama's spending freeze — but several other nonsecurity agencies will also see their budgets increase. Obama wants to grow the Education Department's discretionary budget, for example, from $46.8 billion to $49.7 billion. Much of the money is earmarked for new programs, like Race to the Top. The Energy Department would receive a $2 billion increase, to $28.4 billion, and the Transportation Department would grow from $76.0 billion to $77.6 billion.

The Commerce Department will see the largest decrease — from $13.9 billion to $8.9 billion — though most of that cut is because the 2010 Census will be finished. The department received nearly $7 billion for Census Bureau activities in 2010, much of it earmarked for the temporary workers who conduct the census; that figure drops to $1 billion in 2011.

Other departments that could see their budgets shrink: Agriculture, from $26.9 billion to $25.8 billion; Health and Human Services, from $82.0 billion to $81.3 billion; and Housing and Urban Development, from $43.6 billion to $41.6 billion.

Obama's budget also eliminates or consolidates more than 120 programs — at an estimated savings of $20 billion, according to the White House. The White House issued a similar list of proposed closures in its 2010 budget request.

"These are programs that have outlived their usefulness, and they are eliminated or reduced appropriately," said Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director, in a conference call with reporters on Sunday.

But some of Obama's proposed terminations will almost certainly be reversed in Congress. One item on the list, for example: the Abandoned Mine Land program, which pays state and tribal governments to clean up abandoned mines. Pfeiffer says the program is wasteful, because it often continues to pay states after they've finished cleaning up those mines.

But the White House also tried to kill the program in 2010 — and Congress reinstated its funding.

Obama's budget calls for a 1.4 percent pay raise for civilian and military employees, and a salary freeze for senior political appointees. It also includes money to fund 23 pilot performance evaluation programs; the Office of Management and Budget announced that extra funding in October.

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