Trump administration’s budget preparations under scrutiny

The high paced level of activity this past week centered on the still-sketchy 2018 budget under preparation by the Trump administration. Balancing the big increase the president wants for the Defense Department are cuts averaging 10 percent for civilian agencies.

Short term, military officials say the hiring freeze stings. For instance, the Navy’s research and acquisition chief, Allison Stiller, says she needs to hire engineers right now to support existing shipbuilding plans.

Cuts read “layoffs” to many federal employees. A survey by the National Treasury Employees Union shows a downturn in members’ morale. Respondents also say they’re already feeling the workload grow heavier.

Democratic senators urge Secretary Rex Tillerson to push back against plans to cut State Department funding by as much as a third.

On the personnel front, surgeon and former presidential candidate Ben Carson was confirmed as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Investor Wilbur Ross got the Senate’s nod for Secretary of Commerce. Attorney General Jeff Sessions got embroiled in questions about contacts with Russian officials while still a senator.

Regulatory reform spread out. Pursuing his promise of greater federalism, President Trump began the rollback of a controversial environmental rule from the Obama administration. His executive order seeks comments on rewriting or rescinding the Clean Water Rule.

Homeland Security seeks bids to have prototypes of a border wall built. More than 200 contractors respond, hoping to make it past the down-select later in the Month.