Federal Budget Concepts and Procedures Can Be Further Strengthened

PAD-81-36: Published: Mar 3, 1981. Publicly Released: Mar 3, 1981.

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Although the basic institutional and conceptual budget framework laid out in 1967 and 1974 is serving the nation well, several recent developments have placed strains on the capacity of existing budget concepts and procedures to serve the budget information and control needs of Congress, the executive branch, and the public. Legislation has been enacted removing important federal programs from the budget, resulting in incomplete budget coverage and totals that do not reflect the true level of federal activities. GAO believes that it is essential to recognize the extent of the erosion which has taken place and to begin taking action to overcome the resulting inadequacies in the process. In the opinion of GAO, the government's budgeting system must be improved to deal adequately with the serious economic conditions facing the nation in this decade.

Five basic kinds of changes are needed in the budget process: (1) to place most off-budget federal activities back onto the budget, early legislative action is needed; (2) to better control short- and long-term budget levels, a wide range of management, financing, and legislative actions are needed; (3) to strengthen program and policy level accountability, steps are needed to improve the budget's categories and related information; (4) to streamline the process in order to reduce paperwork and superficial reviews and increase the time for careful analyses and informed debate, changes are needed in scheduling and reporting requirements; and (5) to increase the reliability, consistency, and comparability of budget figures, action is required on several measurement concepts and practices.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The report, a capping report, contained 31 items under this recommendation. Some items were acted upon. Action on the other items is not likely in the near future. It is not desirable or feasible to continue tracking the remaining items.

    Matter: Congress should exercise leadership in bringing about certain other budget reforms concerning matters that have been studied extensively, but which require congressional leadership for bringing about the changes.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The report, a capping report, contained 13 items under this recommendation. Some items were acted upon. Action on the other items is not likely in the near future. It is not desirable or feasible to continue tracking the remaining items.

    Matter: Congress should act early on legislation to effect the budget reform changes identified in this report and in appendix I as the changes on which Congress should take early legislative action.

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The report, a capping report, contained 20 items under this recommendation. Some items were acted upon. Action on the other items is not likely in the near future. It is not desirable or feasible to continue tracking the remaining items.

    Matter: Congress should encourage further analyses on budget system problems that involve complex interrelationships and trade-offs, and that have not been extensively studied before. Congress should also take steps to establish a study group or commission comprised of high elected and appointed officials, and other senior experts, to conduct such further research.

 

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