Copyright ©2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Nobody expects President Obama's budget to become law, not with this Congress, not in such a partisan environment, and certainly not in an election year. Still, the $3.8 trillion plan says a lot about the president's priorities. A team of NPR correspondents has been looking at the numbers.

INSKEEP: The president says he wants, quote, "job-creating infrastructure investments." He's also calling for more investment in green energy.

MONTAGNE: The new budget shaves military spending over the next five years. It tightens the budget for the space agency. And health care is also in for some cost cutting.

INSKEEP: In that area, the plan would seek savings of $364 billion in the coming years, and that is where we start our coverage with NPR's Julie Rovner.

JULIE ROVNER, BYLINE: If President Obama's budget proposals for Medicare and Medicaid sound a little familiar.

(SOUNDBITE OF REWINDING TAPE)

ROVNER: ...that's because they are.

ELLEN MURRAY: They're the same proposals we proposed last fall; just with a different 10-year window.

ROVNER: Ellen Murray is the top budget official at the Department of Health and Human Services. By last fall, she's referring to the unsuccessful efforts of the so-called congressional supercommittee that tried and failed to cut the deficit.

Now, says Deputy HHS Secretary Bill Corr, the administration is recycling those ideas, which together would trim an estimated $364 billion from Medicare and Medicaid over the next decade.

BILL CORR: For example, we propose significant savings in Medicare by reducing drug costs.

ROVNER: To be more specific, the administration would close a loophole that was opened when Medicare started covering drugs for low-income patients in the Medicaid program back in 2006. That would save the government more than $150 billion. More controversial are proposals that would require some Medicare patients to pay more, including those who get home health care.

But while the numbers in the budget may sound large, they're barely rounding errors compared to the size of the health programs, whose annual price tag together is nearing a trillion dollars. And President Obama's decision not to propose any fundamental overhauls irritates Republicans like Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: The president's budget is bad for our seniors because it doesn't protect the security of Medicare and Social Security and assure those programs keep careening towards insolvency.

ROVNER: That debate, however, is likely to be carried out more on the campaign trail this year than in the halls of Congress.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: And this is Tom Bowman at the Pentagon.

President Obama wants to spend $525 billion for the military in 2013. That's about five billion less than the current year. And that doesn't include $88 billion for overseas operations; most of that money is for the war in Afghanistan.

But as the Afghan War winds down, the Pentagon wants to shift focus to the Asia Pacific area, largely to keep an eye on China's growing military might. The budget reflects that, so the Navy would continue to maintain 11 aircraft carriers. There'll be more money to develop submarines and cruise missiles. The Pentagon plans to spend more money on cyber warfare - the ability to attack an adversary's computers. China already is focusing on that area.

The Air Force would also benefit from this new Pacific strategy. The Pentagon plans to fund a new long-range bomber that can be piloted or flown remotely.

There are big cuts, though. Some reflect the decision to forgo future missions like Iraq or Afghanistan - those long-term stability or nation-building efforts. So that means large numbers of ground troops would no longer be needed. The plan calls for cutting the Army and Marine Corps by about 100,000 troops over the next five years.

And fewer ground troops mean fewer troop-carrying planes. The Marines would trim back the number of its Osprey aircraft. And the Air Force would cut dozens of cargo planes, like the C-130, that are no longer needed to fly troops to war.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: This is Brian Naylor with a look at the transportation budget.

(SOUNDBITE OF CONSTRUCTION EQUIPMENT)

NAYLOR: If President Obama has his way, the sound of construction equipment will be a familiar one in communities across the nation. The president has used spending on roads and bridges in previous budgets as a way not only to improve the nation's infrastructure, but also to provide job growth. This year's budget is no different.

Mr. Obama is proposing $74 billion for the Department of Transportation, not as much as in some previous years, but still a two percent increase from current levels. It includes $50 billion to jump-start job creation. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says the administration proposal is far preferable to Transportation bills the House and Senate will consider this week.

SECRETARY RAY LAHOOD: The president's budget reflects what I believe the country is looking for: real substantial dollars going to real substantial programs, whether it be roads, bridges, transit, and certainly our safety programs.

NAYLOR: The administration proposal also includes money for high speed rail, and to modernize the air traffic control system. One area it cuts spending on is grants for large and medium-sized airports, but it also allows those airports to raise the fees they charge travelers. But those extra fees, like much of the proposed transportation spending, would seem to be a non-starter in the current Congress.

ELIZABETH SHOGREN, BYLINE: I'm Elizabeth Shogren, NPR's Environment Correspondent. The president's budget for energy and the environment doesn't have a lot of big new initiatives. It does show a continued commitment to green power.

For example the budget calls for half a billion dollars more for research and development on energy efficiency and renewable power. Energy Secretary Steven Chu says one of the programs that would benefit helps manufacturing companies cut their power bills.

STEVEN CHU: We're very focused on saving money by saving energy.

SHOGREN: Chu also wants to boost funding for a program that's working to make rooftop solar power cost-competitive nationwide. President Obama has been talking a lot about promoting all sources of home-grown energy. But like in previous years, his budget proposes eliminating $4 billion a year in subsides for oil and gas and other fossil fuels.

It also would attach new fees to oil and gas projects on federal land. One fossil fuel issue does get a lot of attention in the budget. The Obama administration wants to increase research into the environmental impact of an engineering technique called hydraulic fracturing. It's what's driving increases in domestic oil and gas production. Lisa Jackson heads the Environmental Protection Agency.

LISA JACKSON: We will begin to assess potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on air quality, water quality, and ecosystems.

SHOGREN: Climate change gets little mention in the budget. But the EPA does request additional money to help states issue greenhouse gas permits for some new power plants and other large facilities.

JOE PALCA, BYLINE: I'm Joe Palca.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: T minus ten, nine, eight, seven, six...

PALCA: Countdowns like this one for the space shuttle are a thing of the past, but NASA's 2013 budget proposal does contain money to launch astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station, although the launches will primarily be from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, not the Kennedy Space Center.

The president's budget also calls for $2.9 billion for a new deep-space crew capsule and a heavy lift rocket to send humans to new destinations, although the budget documents are a bit vague about what those new destinations will be. Although the budget numbers represent an overall increase in spending on research and development, there were some clear winners and losers.

Despite cost overruns, the administration remains committed to the James Webb Space Telescope scheduled to replace the aging Hubble Space Telescope in 2018. There is also money for new Earth observation spacecraft that will provide more information about global climate change.

But planetary missions, particularly missions to Mars, are hit hard in the proposed budget. With the exception of the Mars Science Laboratory that's already on its way to Mars, and a mission to sample the Martian atmosphere set for launch next year, NASA is pulling back on missions to the Red Planet.

In fact, the budget calls for NASA to break commitments already made to collaborate with the European Space Agency on two missions to Mars scheduled for later this decade.

Joe Palca, NPR News, Washington.

INSKEEP: Some analysis of President Obama's budget. We also heard from NPR's Julie Rovner, Tom Bowman, Brian Naylor, and Elizabeth Shogren.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.