National Institute of Standards and Technology:

Carryover Balances for Fiscal Year 1997

RCED-97-144R: Published: Apr 30, 1997. Publicly Released: Apr 30, 1997.

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GAO provided information on its review of the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) carryover balances for fiscal year (FY) 1997, focusing on the unobligated and obligated but unexpended balances carried over from FY 1996 to FY 1997 that could be used to reduce NIST's FY 1998 budget request.

GAO noted that: (1) the budget for NIST's major program areas has declined from about $851 million in FY 1995 to about $588 million in FY 1997, a reduction of about 31 percent; (2) most of this decrease can be attributed to a reduction of over $200 million in the Advanced Technology Program (ATP) budget and a congressional decision not to provide new funding for the new construction program in FY 1997; (3) during this same period, the unobligated carryover balances of the programs GAO reviewed also declined significantly, from about $267 million to an estimated $6.7 million, or 1 percent of NIST's obligational authority available during FY 1997; (4) a number of factors contributed to the decline in unobligated carryover balances, including the reduction in available budget authority and NIST's decision to obligate funds during FYs 1995 and 1996 for the future years of ongoing ATP projects; (5) by forward funding, or obligating funds for the future years of ongoing ATP projects, NIST was able to reduce its unobligated carryover balance at the end of FY 1996 to about $42 million; (6) as unobligated carryovers for ATP and the other NIST programs have declined, carryovers of obligated but unexpended funds have increased; (7) this increase can be explained by the increase in program obligations, caused, in part, by the forward funding for ATP and the NIST grant process, which may delay the expenditure of funds for some time after they are obligated; (8) ATP officials told GAO that they expect to obligate all of the funds available to them, $225 million in new appropriations in FY 1997, plus the $42 million in unobligated carryover from 1996, by the end of FY 1997; (9) however, GAO questions ATP's ability to completely obligate all of these funds; (10) at the time of GAO's review, ATP had not yet begun to review most of the proposals for the seven separate new competitions announced earlier in FY 1997; (11) the review, selection, and approval of individual ATP project proposals from the private sector can be a lengthy process; (12) in addition, the Department of Commerce was just beginning a study of ATP's funding policy in response to congressional concerns about the size and potential growth of ATP; and (13) actions taken as the result of this review could affect the timing and award of new ATP projects throughout the remainder of FY 1997.

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