The Center for Effective Government has developed this simple dashboard to help provide the public and the media with a simple entry point for learning more about our government's efforts to protect the public.
A critical function of government is to protect citizens from harm. We expect our national government to keep contaminated food off the grocery store shelves and out of restaurants; to prevent industrial facilities from poisoning the air and water in our communities, and to ensure we have safe workplaces.
When our health and safety systems are working well, they tend to be invisible to us, and we take them for granted. It's when they fail that we pay attention.
We are likely to see more failures in the coming years if we continue to reduce the resources of the public agencies charged with averting preventable injuries and tragedies. The budgets of these key oversight agencies have stagnated or declined over the past decade – even as their tasks have grown more complex and burdensome.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for monitoring the toxicity and health effects of the hundreds of new chemicals that are being introduced to the market each year (to an existing inventory of over 84,000 chemicals in commercial use). Less than two percent have been adequately tested for health risks.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had fewer health and safety compliance inspections staff in 2011 than in 1981, even though the number of workplaces it is supposed to keep safe doubled from 4.5 to 9 million, and the number of workers in the U.S. rose from 73.4 to 129.4 million.
The amount of domestic animal products (meat, poultry, egg products) that the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is responsible for inspecting increased by 10 percent over the past decade – from 100 to 110 billion.
And the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is dealing with the complex issue of food imports. The proportion of imported food that Americans consume more than doubled between 2003 and 2013, to 15 percent. This includes two-thirds of fresh fruits and vegetables. But the FDA manages to inspect only one to two percent of all imports at American ports and borders.
The Center for Effective Government has compiled the budget levels for the four federal regulatory agencies named above using White House budget documents going back to fiscal year 2004 (the federal fiscal year is October 1 through September 30) and adjusted them for inflation.
This presentation is best used for analyzing trends in spending levels.
When inflation-adjusted, President Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget proposal does not increase funding for FDA, OSHA, FSIS or EPA. Congress is likely to propose lower levels of funding, especially for EPA and OSHA.
These budget levels are a starting point for the budget negotiations that will occur this year. The Center for Effective Government has developed this simple dashboard to help provide the public and the media with a simple entry point for learning more about our government's efforts to protect the public. Please note that there are substantial caveats with the data. See the Notes section below the tables for more information.
Budget authority by agency and obligations by program activity, 2004-2016 (in millions of 2013 dollars)
The levels have been adjusted to 2013 dollars using the White House Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) non-defense Gross Domestic Product Deflator (see Table 10). For questions about the data, please feel free to contact staff at the Center for Effective Government.
The agency-wide budget numbers are "budget authority" – this is what Congress votes on when it sets appropriations. It is "the authority provided by law to incur financial obligations that will result in outlays," according to OMB. "In deciding the amount of budget authority to request for a program, project, or activity, agency officials estimate the total amount of obligations they will need to incur to achieve desired goals and subtract the unobligated balances available for these purposes. The amount of budget authority requested is influenced by the nature of the programs, projects, or activities being financed."
The program level numbers are obligations, which, according to OMB, include "the current liabilities for salaries, wages, and interest; and contracts for the purchase of supplies and equipment, construction, and the acquisition of office space, buildings, and land."
FDA's "Animal Feed" and "Biologics" program areas were broken out from its "Drugs" program for budgetary purposes in recent years.
In addition to appropriations from Congress, FDA is authorized to collect substantial amounts of funding from industry in the form of user fees that nearly double its budget. The Center for Effective Government derived this information from the "Spending authority from offsetting collections, discretionary (total)" budget line that is mostly made up of collected user fees from industry. The other agencies examined do not get substantial funding from user fees.
OSHA's "Whistleblower Program" was broken out from "Federal Enforcement" for budgetary purposes in recent years.
OMB budget documents do not include EPA's agency-wide budget authority numbers for fiscal years 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. However, rounded to the nearest one hundred million dollars, these budget authority numbers exist in the budget summary table. After adjusting for inflation, staff at the Center for Effective Government rounded these budget authority numbers to the nearest one hundred million. As more detailed information becomes available, the Center for Effective Government will update this dashboard.
The EPA received substantial amounts of American Reinvestment and Recovery Act dollars, especially in 2010.
There are substantial budget variations for some EPA programs in certain years. EPA should be consulted for more details.
Research: Mark Boyd, Jessica Schieder, Katie Weatherford, Nick Schwellenbach, and Ronald White
Lindsay Koshgarian of the National Priorities Project was gracious enough to review these inflation-adjustments.