Budget Issues:

Fiscal Year 1996 Agency Spending by Budget Function

AIMD-97-95: Published: May 13, 1997. Publicly Released: May 13, 1997.

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Paul L. Posner
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on federal spending by budget function and subfunction for fiscal year 1996.

GAO noted that: (1) most federal departments and agencies address more than one mission area; in fact, most made obligations in 1996 to three or more budget functions; (2) if the analysis is continued to subdepartments and subfunctions, the picture is often more complex; (3) for example, the Department of Health and Human Services has about a dozen subdepartments addressing eight missions ranging from Health Care Services to Training and Employment; (4) the Department of the Interior has over a dozen subdepartments addressing 11 missions ranging from Recreational Resources to General Purpose Fiscal Assistance to Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education; (5) focusing on the missions of government, rather than federal organizations, produces a similarly intricate picture; (6) excluding Social Security, Medicare, and Net interest, 6 of the remaining 15 budget functions are addressed by six or more executive branch departments and major agencies; (7) for example, seven major federal organizations made obligations in 1996 to the Natural Resources and Environment mission area and seven to community and Regional Development; (8) lastly, in nominal dollar terms, the significance of a department to a mission area, or of a mission area to a department, varies considerably; (9) spending for the Transportation mission area, for example, is almost entirely within the Department of Transportation, which is also associated with that mission area almost exclusively; (10) however, the Department of Agriculture, with nearly two dozen subdepartments addressing 16 different subfunctions, presents a different picture; (11) the Department is responsible for almost all spending in the Agriculture function, but half of the Department's obligations are associated with a different function and subfunction (Food and Nutrition Assistance within Income Security); (12) the function classifications can in some cases aggregate very different activities; (13) a specific function or subfunction may not fully encompass a set of logically related activities; (14) subfunctions are based on a variety of organizing themes; (15) some are based on divisible segments of broad mission areas, some on a set of related activities, and some on common functions; and (16) although each federal activity is placed in a function that best defines its most important purpose, there is discretion when coding an individual budget account against the function categories.

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  • budget icon, source: GAO

    State and Local Governments' Fiscal Outlook:

    2016 Update
    GAO-17-213SP: Published: Dec 8, 2016. Publicly Released: Dec 8, 2016.

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