The Trump administration’s budgetary plans for cuts in non-defense programs to pay for increases in defense spending already are triggering opposition–mainly, but not exclusively, from Democrats–that could preview a difficult budget season ahead, with federal employees caught in the middle. While the proposal will focus on the next fiscal year, which starts October 1, some of the ideas could get thrown into the mix for the remainder of the current fiscal year. Temporary spending authority for most agencies expires April 28–the VA and military construction projects are funded for the full year–providing an opportunity to seek immediate changes through a funding measure needed to carry agencies through September. Such moves often have led to budgetary showdowns that threaten partial government shutdowns. Most commonly, such situations are resolved by passing extensions of current spending levels with either no add-ons or only non-controversial ones–but not before creating anxiety in the federal workforce over potential unpaid furloughs such as those that occurred in 2013 and that lasted two weeks. Yet another complication is the upcoming need to raise the federal debt ceiling; if that is not done, a partial shutdown similarly could be triggered, although the potential damage to the economy typically is the main focus. A stopgap commonly used in that situation is to “disinvest” the TSP’s government securities G fund, taking the obligation to pay investors off the Treasury’s books and freeing up enough cash to keep the government operating for months. While that has been done many times and investors are guaranteed they won’t lose money, many TSP participants deeply resent such use of the G fund, which is their own money, not a government trust fund.
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