Trump pushes sweeping changes in speech to nation
President Trump addressed a joint session of Congress on Feb 28.
President Donald Trump did not get bogged down in details during his Feb. 28 address to Congress, and he certainly did not make federal IT a focal point. But with his policy vows and the early actions he chose to spotlight, the president made clear that he plans to make big changes at federal agencies.
The Pentagon, Trump promised, "will be given the resources its brave warriors so richly deserve." He said his proposed budget "eliminates the Defense sequester, and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history."
More funding for veterans was also promised. But the rest of government was effectively put on notice. Trump touted the federal hiring freeze, and said his administration "will be saving billions more dollars on contracts all across our government."
Trump's promised tax cuts, if enacted, also would affect the available funding. Trump repeated his intent to slash corporate tax rates, and also called for "massive tax relief for the middle class."
Most of those plans require the cooperation of Congress, however, and Democratic legislators quickly took issue with the president's speech. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) declared Trump's budget priorities "deeply disturbing," and suggested that the Appropriations Committee -- where he is the vice chairman and ranking Democrat -- "is where we translate priorities into reality."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's (D-N.Y.) office issued a statement calling Trump's budget "dead on arrival" and asserting, "the White House will never succeed in making its math add up."
The president did not mention the squeeze at civilian agencies that reportedly would pay for the increased defense spending, but Democrats and other critics were highlighting and vowing to oppose those cuts even before Trump delivered his remarks.
"I am greatly concerned ... that President Trump will propose massive cuts to most non-defense discretionary spending," American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox Sr. said in a statement. "Further cuts could leave some agencies with not enough employees to do the work that's required, forcing them in some cases to outsource the work to more costly contractors – negating any of the financial benefit from the cuts in the first place."
"The very missions of these government programs would be jeopardized by such drastic cuts and thousands of federal employees around the country would likely lose their jobs," agreed National Treasury Employees Union National President Tony Reardon. "Starving federal agencies without regard to the vital services they provide to Americans is short-sighted and would inflict serious damage to the U.S. economy."
Some changes, however, are easier for the White House to pursue unilaterally, and the president cited a couple of those as well. His administration is "creating a deregulation task force inside of every government agency," Trump said, and he again promised to make agencies revoke two existing regulations for each new one enacted.
The president made no mention of cybersecurity, streamlining government operations or innovating with technology. He did repeat his promise to invest $1 trillion in infrastructure -- which some have suggested could include IT systems and other digital infrastructure -- but framed those investments in a decidedly analog way.
"Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our beautiful land," Trump promised.
Troy K. Schneider is editor-in-chief of FCW and GCN.
Prior to joining 1105 Media in 2012, Schneider was the New America Foundation’s Director of Media & Technology, and before that was Managing Director for Electronic Publishing at the Atlantic Media Company. The founding editor of NationalJournal.com, Schneider also helped launch the political site PoliticsNow.com in the mid-1990s, and worked on the earliest online efforts of the Los Angeles Times and Newsday. He began his career in print journalism, and has written for a wide range of publications, including The New York Times, WashingtonPost.com, Slate, Politico, National Journal, Governing, and many of the other titles listed above.
Schneider is a graduate of Indiana University, where his emphases were journalism, business and religious studies.
Click here for previous articles by Schneider, or connect with him on Twitter: @troyschneider.