Budget Formulation:

Many Approaches Work but Some Improvements Are Needed

PAD-80-31: Published: Feb 29, 1980. Publicly Released: Mar 31, 1980.

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GAO conducted a series of case studies of the budget formulation process in 10 Federal programs in the Departments of Defense, the Interior, and Health, Education, and Welfare.

The case studies revealed a variety of budget formulation styles. In some cases, budget requests were developed through "bottom-up" methods that involved field offices and no prior guidance or fixed request amounts from higher levels. In other cases, budgets were developed through "top-down" methods in which the request amount was set in advance at top levels and which entailed little or no field office work. Often, the approach followed related to the type of program, and no one approach appeared the best for all programs. Formulation weaknesses and potential problems requiring action were identified in the planning process, zero-base budgeting (ZBB) procedures, and in agencies' methods of reporting to Congress.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: When we determine what steps the Congress has taken, we will provide updated information.

    Matter: Congress should appropriate initial funding each year for the Bureau of Land Management's emergency fire program that covers the total estimated funding requirement of the program for the year.

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: When we determine what steps the Congress has taken, we will provide updated information.

    Matter: Congress should direct the Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with the Department of Agriculture, to develop for executive branch and congressional budget use an overall "Federal" program land acquisition plan for executive branch and congressional budget use that identifies priorities on the geographic areas and kinds of land to be acquired.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: ZBB has been discontinued by the executive branch.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Management and Budget should consider establishing with individual agencies rotating schedules for full ZBB analyses of selected programs and activities. The schedules could be linked to cycles of executive branch or congressional reviews.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Management and Budget should improve budget reporting by revising budget request procedures for the Bureau of Land Management's emergency fire program to provide for initial appropriation requests that fully reflect the total estimated yearly funding requirements of the program.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Management and Budget should improve budget reporting by including in the Budget Appendix and related justifications provided to appropriations committees a Medicare summary table that would fully disclose the key funding and legislative proposals.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: ZBB has been discontinued by the executive branch.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Management and Budget should monitor and review agency plans for ZBB and provide guidance on: (1) the programs and activities which agencies should perform full analyses of minimum levels, as opposed to using percentage-based minimums; and (2) the programs and activities that should be pulled from zero-based budgeting ranking "core" treatment and subjected to detailed analyses.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct Bureau of Land Management officials, as they develop a comprehensive multiyear plan for use in budget formulation, to consult with cognizant congressional committees to achieve agreement on a common set of planning and budgeting categories for use in both authorizing and appropriating processes. Efforts should be devoted to develop a single set of categories as the principal ones of authorizing and appropriations control.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  6. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Management and Budget should improve budget reporting by including in the budget, in a single table and discussion, a comprehensive reporting by agency and account of the budget authority and outlay increases/decreases, with subtotals for each, associated with executive proposed legislation.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

 

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