On the Chopping Block: Here’s what those 19 agencies really are and what they really do.

trump20blueprint

I took a long hiatus. I’m back because I can’t stand silently by while Trump eliminates 19 actually-really-wonderful agencies in order to “save money” (in the grand scheme of things, these agencies cost pennies on the dollar and, frankly, if it’s saving money we’re concerned about, maybe we shouldn’t be spending $4.5 billion on a wall between the US and Mexico).

You know that old adage, “You don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone?” I’m not sure there has been a truer representation of that than this. Typing up this list was heartbreaking. [Also, I was working FAST so please excuse typos or awkward sentences/phrases.]

What was on the chopping block? Poor people and education, basically. Foreign assistance (but we’re bloating the military…). Also the arts. Like I said, heartbreaking.

 

The United State African Development Foundation (USADF)http://www.usadf.gov/:

The USADF is an Independent US Government Agency that provides grants of up to $250,000 to community groups and small enterprises that benefit under-served and marginalized groups in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Now, if you just don’t think ANY of our money should be leaving our borders (really myopic and naïve, but okay), I guess there’s not a lot that can be said to convince you that part of power is responsibility and, beyond that, simple decency. The USADF has helped support and fund more than 1,500 small enterprises and community-based organizations in more than 20 African countries. It’s also been involved in implementing a food security project in the Sahel region of West Africa.

And its cost? About $22 million dollars (so it wasn’t exactly bleeding us).

 

The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)https://www.arc.gov/:

ARC is a federal-state partnership that works with the people of Appalachia (an historically impoverished region and oft-overlooked region of the country that includes all of West Virginia and portions of AL, GA, KY, MD, MS, NY, NC, OH, PA, SC, TN, and VA) to create opportunities for self-sustaining economic development and improved quality of life. Congress established ARC in 1965 in order to help bring the region into socioeconomic parity with the rest of the United States. The Commission serves a population of more than 25 million people in an area of 205,000 square miles.

All of ARC’s activities must advance on of five strategic investment goals:

(1) Create economic opportunities

(2) Develop a ready workforce

(3) Invest in critical infrastructure, including the Appalachian Development Highway System

(4) Leverage natural and cultural assets

(5) Bolster leadership and community capacity

Most of its funds go towards grants, which require performance measures, and a regional research and evaluation program helps inform the agency’s work. Basically, ARC is focused on teaching communities how to “fish for themselves.” ARC targets its resources to the areas of greatest need and least half of its grants have historically gone to projects that benefit economically distressed areas.

And it’s had a positive impact. In 1960, there were 295 high poverty counties in Appalachia, now there are 91. It’s reduced infant mortality rate by 2/3 and doubled the percentage of high school graduates. ARC’s programs have helped create or retain over 101,000 jobs through projects that include entrepreneurship, education and training, healthcare, telecommunications, business development, and basic infrastructure. Additionally, ARC grants have leveraged almost $2.7 billion in private investments – nothing to sneeze at.

 

The US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (aka the Chemical Safety Board aka CSB)http://www.csb.gov/:

The CSB is an independent US federal agency that is charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents and conducts root cause investigations of chemical accidents at fixed industrial facilities. It’s authorized by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 and has existed since January of 1998. It’s role? “To investigate accidents and determine the conditions and circumstances which led up to the event and to identify the cause or causes so that similar events might be prevented.” The CSB is under its own auspices and does not take direction from any other agency or the executive branch.

Its “notable” investigations included:

(1) Texas City Refinery Explosion

(2) Xcel Energy Cabin Creek Hydroelectric Plant Fire in October of 2007

(3) Port Wentworth Imperial Sugar Plant explosion in February of 2008

(4) Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010

(5) Chevron Refinery fire in August of 2012

(6) West Texas fertilizer fire and explosion in April of 2013

Once the CSB is gone, there isn’t another agency or organization that will take on the CSB’s roles. We’ll be back to unexamined accidents.

The CSB’s chairperson, Vanessa Allen, issued a statement on Trump’s proposed closure of the agency. If you’re interested, you can read it here: http://www.csb.gov/statement-from-the-csbs-chairperson-vanessa-allen-sutherland-on-fy-2018-budget/

 

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) – https://www.nationalservice.gov/

Let me put it this way, you might not be familiar with CNCS, but I bet you’re familiar with AmeriCorps. Guess what? AmeriCorps is run by CNCS and without CNCS, there is no AmeriCorps

CNCS is a federal agency created in 1993 (under George H. W. Bush) that engages more than five million Americans in service through AmeriCorps, Learn and Serve America, Senior Corp, USA Freedom Corps, President’s Volunteer Service Award, and the Presidential Freedom Scholarship Program. Its mission is to “support the American culture of citizenship, service, and responsibility.” Although it is a government agency, CNCS behaves like a foundation and is the largest annual grant maker supporting service and volunteering in the United States.

CNCS’s focus areas include:

  • Disaster services – preparation, mitigation, response, and recovery efforts that relate to disaster events
  • Economic opportunity – addresses unmet needs of economically disadvantaged individuals, including financial literacy, affordable housing, and employment-related assistance
  • Education, – addresses unmet educational needs within communities, especially those that help at-risk youth to achieve success in school and prevent them from dropping out
  • Environmental stewardship – addresses matters energy and water efficiency, renewable energy use, at-risk ecosystems, and behavioral change leading to increased efficiency
  • Healthy futures – address unmet health needs, including access to health care, increasing physical activity and improving nutrition in youth, and increasing seniors’ ability to remain in their own homes
  • Veterans and Military Families – addresses unmet needs of veterans, members of the armed forces, and family members deployed military personnel

Anyway, all that is gone in the FY 2018 budget.

 

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB)http://www.cpb.org/:

Sesame Street. Mister Rogers. (Ok, that’s PBS, but PBS falls under the auspices of CPB, although it is run by private groups and has been since 1969.)

Fresh Air. Car Talk. The State of Things. (Ok, that’s NPR, but NPR also falls under the auspices of CPB and has since 1970. Unlike PBS, NPR produces and distributes programming.)

The CPB was created in 1967 in order to ensure universal access to non-commercial high-quality content and telecommunications services. It achieves this by distributing more than 70% of its funding to more than 1,400 locally owned public radio and television stations.

The CPB has received around $500 million dollars a year to fund media. Rooughly 95% of CPB’s appropriation goes directly to content development, community services, and other local station and system needs. Public broadcasting stations are funded by a combination of private donations from listeners/viewers, foundations, and corporations. Funding for public television comes in roughly equal parts from government (state and federal) and the private sector. Stations that receive CPB funds must meet certain requirements. For example, they must either maintain or provide opportunity for open meetings, open financial records, a community advisory board, equal employment opportunity, and lists of donors and political opportunities.

 

Delta Regional Authority (DRA)http://dra.gov/:

Similar to ARC, the DRA’s mission is to improve the quality of life for the residents of the Mississippi River Delta Region which consists of 252 counties and parishes in parts of AL, AR, IL, KY, LA, MS, MO, and TN. The agency is led by a federally appointed co-chairmen and the governors of the eight states mentioned. Under federal law, at least 75% of DRA funds must be invested in economically dstressed counties and parishes. Approximately half are awarded for transportation and basic infrastructure improvements.

DRA’s mission is to help economically distressed communities to leverage other federal and state programs four Congressionally mandated priority funding categories:

(1) Basic public infrastructure in distressed counties and isolated areas of distress

(2) Transportation infrastructure for the purpose of facilitating economic development in the region

(3) Business development, with emphasis on entrepreneurship

(4) Workforce development or employment-related education, with emphasis on use of existing public education institutions located in the region

Like ARC, DRA has had a discernible [positive] impact. Since 2010, 11,452 jobs have been created; 14,766 jobs have been retained; 64,831 families have received improved water and sewer; and 7,202 individuals have received job training. [Also, economically, DRA receives far more money from private sources than it does from the government, which makes its eradication extra ridiculous. But because it is a government agency, it can’t simply continue to exist if it is eliminated in the budget.]

 

The Denali Commissionhttp://www.denali.gov/:

The Denali Commission is an independent federal agency established in 1998 that exists to provide critical utilities, infrastructure, and economic support throughout Alaska – specifically paying attention to Alaska’s remote communities. It delivers federal services in the most cost-effective manner (again, why is this on the chopping block?) by reducing administrative and overhead costs. The Denali Commission’s mission is to provide job training and other economic development services in rural communities, and it was established with a specific focus on promoting rural development and providing power generation, transition facilities, modern communication systems, water and sewer systems and other infrastructure needs in rural Alaska.

I guess Trump doesn’t like Alaska.

 

Institute of Museums and Library Services (IMLS)https://www.imls.gov/:

IMLS essentially wants to spread knowledge and make it widely accessible and engaging, IMLS’s mission is “to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement.” It lists its strategic goals as being:

  • Placing learners at the center and helping to support engaging experiences in libraries and museums that prepare people to be full participants in their local communities and our global society. (In other words, they want to widen horizons, foster curiosity, create open and eager minds, and share new knowledge.)
  • Promoting museums and libraries as strong community anchors that enhance civic engagement, cultural opportunities, and economic vitality.
  • Supporting the stewardship of museum and library collections and promoting the use of technology to facilitate discovery of knowledge and cultural heritage.

IMLS also advises the President and Congress on plans, policies, and activities to sustain and increase public access to information and ideas. (Are you starting to notice a trend, here, with respect to what Trump is trying to nix? Because I am.) It supports the full range of libraries in the US, including public, academic, research, special and tribal, and supports the full range of museums in the US, including art, history, science and technology, children’s museums, historical societies, tribal museums, planetariums, botanic gardens, and zoos.

If you’re curious about the nitty-gritty funding issues, the website is very helpful and has all kinds of easily accessible facts and figures. In fact, I’ll make it easy for you, here’s the link (try not to feel too sad about the requested funding now that you have the knowledge that the President just wants to eliminate them entirely): https://www.imls.gov/sites/default/files/budgettable_14-17.pdf

 

The Inter-American Foundation (IAF)http://www.iaf.gov/:

The IAF is an independent agency created in 1972 that funds development projects undertaken by grassroots groups and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in South America and the Caribbean. It began as an experimental alternative to traditional, government-to-government foreign assistance and, since beginning operations in 1972, has awarded 4,920 grants worth more than $665 million dollars. (Take a second to do the math there and recognize what a paltry sum that is based on other government expenditures.)

IAF’s mission statement is “to (1) strengthen the bonds of friendship and understanding among the peoples of this hemisphere; (2) support self-help efforts designed to enlarge the opportunities for individual development; (3) stimulate and assist effective and ever wider participation of the people in the development process; and (4) encourage the establishment and growth of democratic institutions, private and governmental, appropriate to the requirements of the individual sovereign nations of this hemisphere.” Again, another agency that isn’t costing us very much but is doing wonderful things for the less privileged of the world. In a world where kindness and empathy are rare commodities.

Grant recipients are closely monitored and required to report semi-annually on their progress. IAF compiles this information annually into a results report (available – for now – on their website). An independent review of IAF found that its approach “favors inductive reasoning in contrast to other aid agencies’ reliance on deductive methods.” In other words, rather than articulating questions and testing hypotheses, IAF begins with observation first and from observation follows relevant questions. This is immensely valuable because it results in a greater understanding of issues and people and provides an opportunity for more useful and effective solutions to problems.

 

The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA)https://www.ustda.gov/:

The USTDA is another independent agency. It was established in 1961 to advance economic development and U.S. commercial interests in developing and middle income countries. Essentially, the agency helps companies create U.S. jobs through the export of U.S. goods and services needed for priority development projects in emerging economies. USTDA links U.S. businesses to export opportunities by funding project preparation and partnership building activities that then help to develop sustainable infrastructure as well as foster economic growth in partner countries.

USTDA also supports efforts to mitigate global climate change (And there it is. There’s why Trump wants to eliminate it) by helping partner countries develop renewable energy resources, invest in cleaner forms of traditional energy and modernize electric grids in order to increase their efficiency, reliability, and sustainability. In 2013, USTDA was named a Smart Grid Pioneer by “Smart Grid Today” for its efforts. In 2015, the agency committed over half of its energy investments to renewable power. If allowed to come to fruition, the projects would have the potential to unlock over $4.3 billion in financing and produce over 2,400 megawatts of new renewable energy (so, in addition to being environmentally friendly and intelligent, it’s also a potential goldmine). The new renewable energy would reduce CO2 equivalent emissions by an estimated 12 million metric tons a year as compared with new traditional power generation.

I could ramble on and on about USTDA; I suggest you do some of your own reading. Its elimination is tragic from an energy advancement perspective. Its worked to create sustainable cities, investing in intelligent solutions for transportation and energy, and working towards safe and efficient urban infrastructure. Thanks a lot, Trump.

 

Legal Services Corporation (LSC)http://www.lsc.gov/:

The LSC is a publicly funded, 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation established by Congress in 1974. In short, its purpose is to ensure equal access to justice under the law for all Americans by providing civil legal assistance to those who would otherwise be unable to afford it (think public defenders but federal). [In fiscal year 2015, LSC had a budget of $375 million to fund civil legal aid. AGAIN, not exactly breaking the bank. Not by a long shot. Fun fact: LSC tried to get $390 million in 2009, but Senator Grassley said “There’s just a lot of money being wasted.” Because, again, screw poor people who need legal help but can’t afford it.]

LSC is the largest single funder of civil legal aid in the United States and distributes more than 90% of its total funding to 134 independent nonprofit legal aid programs. More specifically, LSC grantees help people who live in households with annual incomes at or below 125% of the federal poverty line (for a single person that’s roughly between $11,880/year and $16,400/year). Eligible clients include the working poor, veterans and military families, homeowners and renters, families with children, farmers, the disabled, and the elderly.

“Justice for only those who can afford it is neither justice for all nor justice at all.” Texas Chief Justice Nathan Hecht.

 

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)https://www.arts.gov/:

Here’s one with which just about everyone is familiar, I think, so I’m not going to say as much about it. You should still get familiar with it, though (they have a statement on their website about its proposed elimination). The NEA was created in 1965 and offers support and funding for projects exhibiting “artistic excellence.” Like EVERY OTHER AGENCY ON THE LIST the NEA is not costing us much money and has never received more than $167.5 million annually. It is “dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established, bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education. [Also, Reagan tried to get rid of it in 1981, but nevertheless, it persisted.]

 

National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)https://www.neh.gov/:

Here’s another one with which just about everyone is familiar. The NEH was established in 1965 and is an independent federal agency. It is dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities. To further its goal of lending support, the NEH provides grants to cultural institutions for high-quality humanities projects (museums, archives, libraries, colleges, universities, public television, and radio stations, as well as individual scholars).

It has several special initiatives that include:

(1) Bridging Cultures Initiative: Explores ways in which the humanities promote understanding and mutual respect for people with diverse histories, cultures, and perspectives.

(2) Standing Together: Promotes an understanding of the military experience and supports returning veterans.

(3) “We the People” Initiative: Designed to encourage and enhance the teaching, study, and understanding of American history, culture, and democratic principles.

Guys, the NEH has done so much. Don’t let them kill it.

 

Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation d/b/a NeighborWorks Americahttp://www.neighborworks.org/Home.aspx:

NeighborWorks America is a congressionally chartered nonprofit organization started in 1978 that supports community development in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. It provides grants and technical assistance to more than 240 community development organizations in urban, suburban, and rural communities nationwide. The organization provides training for housing and community development professionals and administers the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling Program (created in 2007), which helps those dealing with foreclosure.

 

The Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC)http://www.nbrc.gov/:

Similar to ARC and DRA, the NBRC is a federal-state partnership formed in 2008 that strives to foster economic and community development in impoverished areas. Specifically, the NBRC operates in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. It provides grants in four areas:

(1) Economic and Infrastructure Development Investments;

(2) Comprehensive Planning for States (helps member states to develop comprehensive economic and infrastructure development plans for their NBRC counties);

(3) Local Development Districts;

(4) General Planning

The NBRC’s mission is “to catalyze regional, collaborative, and transformative community economic development approaches that alleviate economic distress and position the region for economic growth.”

Again, Trump just really doesn’t want to help give the little guy a leg up. At all.

 

Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC)https://www.opic.gov/:

OPIC is the US’s development finance institution created in 1971 – it mobilizes private capital to help solve critical development challenges and, in doing so, purports to advance the foreign policy of the US and national security objectives. It helps businesses gain footholds in emerging markets with the intent of catalyzing revenue, jobs, and growth opportunities both in the US and abroad.

OPIC achieves its mission by providing investors with financing, political risk insurance, and support for private equity investment funds, if commercial funding cannot be found elsewhere. And GUESS WHAT, the institution operates on a self-sustaining basis at NO NET COST to American taxpayers. But…OPIC also has high environmental and social standards, including human and workers’ rights (because it wants to raise those standards in countries where it funds projects), so Trump probably felt it needed to go.

 

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP)https://www.usip.org/:

USIP is a non-partisan, independent, federal institution established in 1984 that analyzes conflicts around the world. It was formed by the United States Institute of Peace Act and calls for the Institute to “serve the people and the Government through the widest possible range of education and training, basic and applied research opportunities, and peace information services on the means to promote international peace and the resolution of conflicts among the nations and people of the world without recourse to violence.” In other words, USIP is supposed to teach, to help, to foster learning, and to strive to determine how to promote peace and resolve conflicts in ways that don’t involve picking up a weapon and killing someone.

USIP operates programs in conflict zones, conducts research and analysis, operates a training academy and public education center, provides grants for research and fieldwork, and convenes conferences and workshops. It also is working to build the academic and policy fields of international conflict management and peacebuilding.

In terms of budget? USIP hasn’t gotten more than $43 million. That’s less than one-tenth of 1% of the State Department’s budget and one-HUNDREDTH of 1% of the Pentagon’s budget.

 

The US Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH)https://www.usich.gov/:

The USICH is an independent federal agency in the executive branch, created in 1987, that works to implement the federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness. The USICH’s mission is to “Coordinate the federal response to homelessness and to create a national partnership at every level of government and with the private sector to reduce and end homelessness in the nation while maximizing the effectiveness of the Federal Government in contributing to the end of homelessness.”

The USICH created objectives around five main themes in order to explain its strategy to address homelessness:

(1) Increase leadership, collaboration, and civic engagement – Inspire and energize Americans to commit to preventing and ending homelessness; strengthen the capacity of public and private organizations by increasing knowledge about collaboration, homelessness, and successful interventions to prevent and end homelessness.

(2) Increase access to stable and affordable housing – Provide affordable housing to people experiencing or most at risk of homelessness; improve access to mainstream programs and services to reduce people’s financial vulnerability to homelessness.

(3) Increase economic security – Increase meaningful and sustainable employment for people experiencing or most at risk of homelessness; improve access to mainstream programs and services to reduce people financial vulnerability to homelessness.

(4) Improve health and stability – Integrate health services with assistance programs and housing to reduce people’s vulnerability to and the impacts of homelessness; advance health and housing stability for youth aging out of systems such as foster care and juvenile justice; advance health and housing stability for people experiencing homelessness who have frequent contact with hospitals and criminal justice.

(5) Retool the Homeless Crisis Response System – Transform homeless services to crisis response systems that prevent homelessness and rapidly return people who experience homelessness.

All-in-all, seems like a pretty worthwhile agency.

 

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (Wilson Center)https://www.wilsoncenter.org/:

Created in 1968, the Wilson Center is a Presidential Memorial that was established as part of the Smithsonian Institution. It is a highly regarded think tank that is ranked among the top ten in the world. (Man, we’ll be SO COOL in the eyes of the rest of the world if we eliminate a top ten think tank!) Its mission is “to commemorate the ideals and concerns of Woodrow Wilson by: providing a link between the world of ideas and the world of policy; and fostering research, study, discussion, and collaboration among a full spectrum of individuals concerned with policy and scholarship in national and world affairs.”

It has over 30 specialized programs that include:

  • Africa Program
  • Asia Program
  • Brazil Institute
  • Canada Institute
  • Cold War International History Project
  • Environmental Change and Security Program
  • History and Public Policy Program
  • Kennan Institute
  • Kissinger Institute on China and the United States
  • Mexico Institute
  • Middle East Program
  • North Korean International Documentation Project
  • Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

Ultimately, the Wilson Center works hard to stay engaged in the global dialogue of ideas (and boy do we need that now more than ever). They’ve also issued a statement regarding Trump’s proposed eradication of them: https://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/wilson-center-statement-fy2018-budget-plan

****

Here’s what this boils down to: Trump has no interest in protecting the little guy, our veterans, our poor. He has no interest in protecting the environment, US business interests abroad. He has no interest in fostering conversation, expanding horizons and understanding, or working towards peaceful coexistence. These 19 eliminations tell the story of what Trump stands for and it’s pretty demoralizing. None of us – regardless of place on the political spectrum – should herald this as a success. This is what it is: an embarrassing display of ignorance, lack of imagination, and lack of compassion. As Representative Joe Kennedy III said in response to the AHCA, “it is an act of malice.”

Our President is waging war against us, all of us. Make sure that Congress knows we don’t want this budget.

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