Regulators’ Budget: Homeland Security Remains Key Administration Priority

Image of Budgetary Costs of Federal Regulation from 1960 to 2020.

By: Mark Febrizio, Melinda Warren, and Susan Dudley

October 23, 2019

Download this Report (PDF)

Previous reports linked below.


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, DC.

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”). Within the report, Figures 1 and 2 present these data from fiscal years 1960 to 2020. Here are key findings from our FY 2020 report.

Federal Outlays for Agencies

The president’s FY 2020 Budget would increase overall spending on regulatory agencies over 2019 levels. It requests $75.2 billion in regulatory outlays, compared to estimated outlays of $71.5 billion in 2019. In real (inflation-adjusted) terms, this would mean a 2.9 percent increase in spending. The FY 2019 regulators’ budget is 0.9 percent higher than in 2018.

These topline figures hide some large proposed increases in some regulatory agencies and large decreases in others, however. Reflecting the Trump administration’s priorities of strengthening the border and limiting illegal immigration, agencies involved in border security and immigration enforcement are slated for significant increases in both funds and staff. Under the president’s proposal, regulators in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would receive a 9.2 percent real increase in resources and a 5.6 percent increase in staff in 2020. Within DHS, funding for Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the U.S. Coast Guard would increase by 6.3 percent, 22.2 percent, and 24.9 percent, respectively.

These increases are offset by reductions at other agencies. Apart from the homeland security category, funding for the four other main categories of social regulation—consumer safety and health, transportation, workplace, and energy and environment—would decline in real terms. Similar to the president’s request for FY 2019, the FY 2020 Budget targets agencies involved in environmental and energy regulation for the biggest cuts. In particular, the Department of Energy (DOE) would receive 31.8 percent less in 2020 than appropriated in 2019, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is slated for a 5.1 percent reduction below 2019 spending levels in real terms.

Overall, agencies conducting economic regulation—categorized as finance and banking, industry-specific regulation, and general business—would receive 0.6 percent less in real resources. However, those cuts are primarily concentrated in spending on finance and banking, which would fall by 4.7 percent.

Federal Agency Staffing

The president’s Budget calls for a 1.9 percent increase in the total number of FTEs at the regulatory agencies tracked here. The FY 2020 Budget requests 287,063 employees—5,457 more than estimated 2019 levels, which were 5,628 greater than 2018.

Similar to the trend for federal spending on social regulation, the Budget requests large staffing increases in agencies focused on homeland security regulation (5.6 percent), while seeking substantial reductions in staff dedicated to the environment and energy category (-14.0 percent). The other categories would remain largely unchanged from 2019 to 2020.

The FY 2020 Budget requests a 1.3 percent increase in staffing at agencies involved in economic regulation. FY 2019 levels are an estimated 1.8 percent higher than in 2018. In 2018, FTEs totaled 44,777, while estimated FTEs for this category are 45,589 in 2019 and 46,184 in 2020. Overall, staffing for the finance and banking category would fall an estimated 0.2 percent in 2020, rise by 1.4 percent for industry-specific regulation, and increase by 2.6 percent for general business.

Download this Report (PDF)

View previous reports:

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

FY 2018 -- Regulators’ Budget Reflects President Trump’s Priorities

FY 2017 -- Regulators’ Budget from Eisenhower to Obama

FY 2016 -- 2016 Regulators' Budget: Increases Consistent with Growth in Fiscal Budget


Publications are available from either center at the following addresses:

Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy
Washington University
Campus Box 1027
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
Telephone: 314-935-5652
Fax: 314-935-5688

The George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center
805 21st St, NW, Suite 612
Washington, DC 20052
Telephone: 202-994-7543
Fax: 202-994-6792
Email: [email protected]