FY 2019 Regulators' Budget: More for Homeland Security, Less for Environmental Regulation

FY19 - Regulators' Budget Report Cover

By: Susan E. Dudley and Melinda Warren

May 14, 2018

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Op-ed in The Hill

This report is a joint effort of the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy at Washington University in St. Louis and the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center in Washington, D.C.

Each year we examine the Budget of the United States Government to identify federal agency spending and personnel devoted to developing, administering and enforcing regulation (the “regulators’ budget”). Figures 1 and 2 present these data from fiscal years 1960 to 2019. Here are key findings from our FY 2019 report. The full report is available here.*

Federal Outlays for Agencies

The president’s FY 2019 Budget would maintain overall spending on regulatory agencies at 2018 levels. It requests $71.0 billion in regulatory outlays, compared to estimated outlays of $70.0 billion in 2018. In real (inflation-adjusted) terms, this would mean a 0.1 percent increase in spending. The FY 2018 regulators’ budget is 4.7 percent higher than in 2017. The number of regulators would fall slightly from 280,872 in 2018 to 280,268 in 2019 (a 0.2 percent reduction).

These overall figures hide some large proposed increases in some regulatory agencies and large decreases in others, however. Reflecting President Trump’s priorities, agencies involved in border security and immigration regulation and enforcement are slated for significant increases in both funds and staff. Regulators in the Department of Homeland Security would receive a 4.8 percent real increase in resources, and a 3.8 percent increase in staff in 2019. The Budget also requests a 5.0 percent increase in resources for the Food and Drug Administration and an 11.5 percent increase for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

These increases are offset by reductions at other agencies. The president’s “Budget Message” emphasizes his deregulatory priorities, and promises to “continue to relentlessly target unnecessary regulations for elimination. For example, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau requests a 10.4 percent reduction in its outlays, which marks the first year since it was established in 2011 that its outlays have not increased by at least $40 million (or 5 percent). The Budget targets agencies involved in environmental and energy regulation for the biggest cuts. In particular, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is slated for a 24.9 percent reduction below 2018 spending levels.

Federal Agency Staffing

The president’s Budget calls for a 0.2 percent reduction in the total number of full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) at the regulatory agencies tracked here. The FY 2019 Budget requests 280,268 employees—604 fewer than estimated 2018 levels, which were 3,709 greater than 2017. While total staffing remains relatively constant, Table 2 shows the distribution of FTEs across agencies may be changing.

As is true with spending, in the social regulation category, the Budget requests large staffing increases in agencies focused on homeland security regulation, while seeking reductions elsewhere. ICE seeks an additional 3,356 FTE, the Coast Guard an additional 1,159 FTE, and TSA an additional 681 FTE. Offsetting these increases are requested reductions of 4,930 from the energy and environment regulators; with EPA requesting 3,838 fewer staff than estimated levels in 2018. The Budget also requests reductions of 1,183 FTE in the consumer safety and health category, 220 fewer employees regulating transportation, and 99 fewer FTE involved in workplace issues. Overall, the Budget requests staffing levels for agencies in the social regulation category of 234,056 FTE in 2019. That is a 0.4 percent reduction from the estimated 234,936 personnel in 2018.

The FY 2019 Budget requests a 0.6 percent increase in staffing at agencies involved in economic regulation. FY 2018 levels are an estimated 1.5 percent higher than in 2017. Estimated FTEs for this category are 45,936 in 2018 and 46,212 in 2019. Despite proposed reductions in spending, the CFPB requests a slight increase of 16 additional FTEs in 2019, after adding an estimated 149 new staff in 2018. The Patent and Trademark Office would also continue to grow, with an increase of 149 people in 2019 and 228 in 2018. The Budget calls for reductions in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s staff of 61 FTE in 2019 and 98 in 2018.

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Figure 1 - Annual Federal Agency Outlays, 1960-2019Figure 2 - Annual Federal Agency Staffing, 1960-2019

The George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center raises awareness of regulations’ effects to improve regulatory policy through research, education, and outreach. It is a leading source for applied scholarship on regulatory issues, and a training ground for current and future policy officials who want to understand the effects of regulation and ensure that regulatory policies serve the public interest.

Publications are available from either center at the following addresses:

Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy
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The George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center
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Telephone: 202-994-7543
Fax: 202-994-6792