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Comparing Trump's budget changes to previous presidents'

An employee arranges copies of President Donald Trump's fiscal 2018 budget request, "America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again," at the Government Printing Office library in Washington on Thursday, March 16, 2017.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
An employee arranges copies of President Donald Trump's fiscal 2018 budget request, "America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again," at the Government Printing Office library in Washington on Thursday, March 16, 2017.

President Donald Trump released a budget plan this week that would take funding from most federal agencies to bolster the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security.

The slim document highlights Trump's plans for discretionary spending, but does not address the administration's entitlement or tax plans, which will be shared later.

"Our Budget Blueprint insists on $54 billion in reductions to non-Defense programs," wrote Trump in his budget message. "These cuts are sensible and rational."

It's not unusual for an incoming president to make sweeping changes to the distribution of funds across federal departments in his first budget proposal, but Trump's budget cuts much deeper than those proposed by either of his two most recent predecessors.

In his proposal for fiscal 2002, George W. Bush trimmed $8 billion across many departments including Transportation, Justice and Agriculture and increased spending for departments like Defense, Health and Human Services, and Education by $34 billion. Barack Obama cut $3 billion while increasing funding by $75 billion for fiscal 2010.

As in the past, it's likely that some of the changes proposed by the Trump budget will be tossed out by Congress.

According to the budget proposal, the Environmental Protection Agency cuts of about $2.6 billion would eliminate 3,200 positions at the agency, in line with "the president's priority to ease the burden of unnecessary federal regulations that impose significant costs for workers and consumers without justifiable environmental benefits."

In contrast, Bush's requested $500 million in EPA cuts was driven almost entirely by the removal of "unrequested earmarks," according to the 2002 proposal. The final funding would be much lower than the agency's budget at the start of either prior presidents' administration.

The Trump budget plan reduces funding to the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development by a total of $10 billion and the Treasury international programs by about $800 million. Both the Bush and Obama budgets called for increases in funding for international programs.

Cutting a third of any budget is unusual

Trump's budget cuts 31 percent from the EPA, 29 percent from the Department of State and other international programs, and 21 percent from both the Agriculture and Labor departments. Those reductions are all bigger than anything in the Obama or Bush plans.

Trump's proposed Defense funding boost is about twice as big by percentage as those put forward by his two predecessors. His Veterans Affairs increase is around the average for Obama and Bush, and his Justice Department and Army Corps of Engineers cuts are also not unusual compared to the other two presidents. The other cuts are far different than previous budget adjustments.

Here's how each president's first budget compares with Trump's 2018 proposal this week, with cuts represented as a percent of each agency's prior-year funding:

The language in Trump's message introducing his "America First" blueprint is also different from Obama's "A New Era of Responsibility" and Bush's "A Blueprint for New Beginnings." Obama wrote that the disaster of the financial crisis and other problems were "rooted in past mistakes, not our capacity for future greatness." Bush called for "a compassionate, responsible and courageous policy worthy of a compassionate, responsible and courageous nation." Trump's message, like his budget, focused on military strength and order.

"In these dangerous times, this public safety and national security Budget Blueprint is a message to the world — a message of American strength, security and resolve," wrote Trump in his budget message. "This Budget Blueprint follows through on my promise to focus on keeping Americans safe, keeping terrorists out of our country and putting violent offenders behind bars."

The White House directed questions to the Office of Management and Budget, which did not immediately respond.