On March 16, President Trump sent an outline of his proposed fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget to Congress. It includes devastating cuts to federal history and humanities funding including elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Institute of Museum and Library Services and Title VI/Fulbright-Hays international education programs.
Here is a link to the proposal known as “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.” The budget proposes a $54 billion increase in defense and public safety spending that is offset by equivalent cuts in discretionary non-defense programs. A more detailed proposal will be sent later in the spring.
Please note the administration has only submitted a bare-bones budget summary for “major” federal agencies. As a result, smaller agencies that are of interest to NCH members such as the National Archives (which includes the National Historical Publications and Records Commission), Library of Congress, etc. are not included. In addition, the summary in most cases does not drill down to the programmatic level at the larger agencies. There are exceptions which I will set forth below.
The major point to remember is that Congress ultimately controls appropriations. Many Republicans and Democrats on the Hill have already dismissed the Trump proposal as “dead on arrival.” The reality is the president is posturing and this budget plays to his base by delivering on his promise to “drain the swamp.” So while our community should and will fight vigorously against these proposed cuts, I cannot stress enough that there is no need to panic. This is a war of attrition that will be fought through the appropriations process in both houses of Congress. We will need to focus our attention, as we always have, on the appropriations subcommittees with jurisdiction over the programs that affect our constituents.
Here is what we know. The Trump budget eliminates the following agencies and programs affecting our member organizations:
- National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
- National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)
- Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)
- National Heritage Areas program at the National Park Service. There are currently 49 Heritage Areas nationwide.
- Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
- Twenty individual grant programs at the Department of Education are eliminated. The proposal specifically mentions international education which includes Title VI/Fulbright-Hays.
- The Department of Interior’s budget is cut 12%. How this affects the National Park Service cannot be ascertained at this point.
In addition, the budget retains Historic Preservation Grants at the National Park Service. The budget notes, “These voluntary programs encourage public private partnerships by providing matching funds that produce greater benefits to taxpayers for the Federal dollars invested.”
Here is what we don’t know. As noted above, the budgets for many agencies with history-related programs have not been released. These include:
- National Archives and Records Administration
- National Historical Publications and Records Commission
- Library of Congress
- Smithsonian Institution
- History and civics grants at the Department of Education
- Other history and cultural-related programs at the National Park Service not mentioned above.
You can expect that NCH will be issuing a number of legislative alerts in the coming months as the FY 18 budget moves through the appropriations process. Over the years we have built lasting relationships in Congress that we can draw upon, including the History Caucus in the House. The National Humanities Alliance held its annual Humanities Advocacy Day earlier this week with a record 250+ attendees. Early reports are that there remains strong support on the Hill for our programs. So our work has just begun.