Appropriations Law Training


GAO’s Principles of Appropriations Law course acquaints participants with the purposes and principles of federal fiscal law. It blends lecture, case studies, and student participation in a way that engages and challenges participants, while maximizing the exchange of both practical and theoretical information.

GAO's Course

Principles of Appropriations Law (PAL) is a 2 ½ -day course taught by experienced GAO attorneys. GAO offers PAL exclusively through live, in-person training, either at GAO headquarters (see Registration for Open Enrollment Courses) or at a requesting agency’s training site (see Registration for Group Courses). The course begins at 8:30 AM each day. It ends at approximately 3:45 PM on Days 1 and 2 and 11:30 AM on Day 3. The course generally qualifies for 17 continuing professional education (CPE) credits. See below for a complete course outline.


Each fiscal year, GAO offers at least one PAL course at GAO headquarters on an “open enrollment” basis, meaning that GAO enrolls individual federal employees for a fee of $500 per seat. GAO typically begins accepting open enrollment requests starting October 1 of a given fiscal year (we do not consider requests received before October 1).

At this time, GAO is no longer accepting requests for the fiscal year 2020 open enrollment course (August 25, 2020 to August 27, 2020).

If GAO has offered you a seat, your agency must finalize your registration by completing both steps of GAO’s advance payment process, i.e., (1) the execution of an interagency agreement AND (2) the use of a government credit card to make advance payment via PAY.GOV. Failure to complete this process (or request an extension) within 8 weeks of your course may result in the loss of your seat. In addition, if your circumstances change after GAO offers you a seat, please email PALCourse@GAO.GOV to decline the seat and free it up for someone else.

Registration for Group Courses

PAL group courses are taught at various federal agencies and can accommodate up to 35 agency employees for a fee of $5,000 (plus additional costs for instructor travel expenses for group courses held outside the Washington, D.C. local travel area). In recent years, GAO has taught group courses at the Departments of Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security; the Central Intelligence Agency; the Office of Personnel Management; and the General Services Administration, among others.

For the fiscal year 2020 group course schedule, GAO asked agencies to submit requests by August 31, 2019. Based on the volume of requests received, GAO is no longer accepting requests for fiscal year 2020 group courses. In the event that circumstances change and we are able to accommodate additional group courses this fiscal year, we will update this page accordingly. Otherwise, we will update this page in the summer of 2020 to announce that we are accepting expressions of interest for fiscal year 2021 group courses.

Course Outline

  1. Introduction to Appropriations Law
    1. Constitution and Major Statutes
    2. Annual Budget and Appropriations Process
    3. Budget Execution and Control
    4. Apportionment and Allotment
    5. Obligating and Disbursing Funds
    6. Impoundment
  2. Terminology and Classification
  3. Statutory Construction
  4. Availability of Appropriations: Purpose
    1. Purpose Three-Step Analysis
    2. Necessary Expense Rule
    3. Statutory Purpose Restrictions
    4. Other Available Appropriations
  5. Availability of Appropriations: Amount
    1. Antideficiency Act: Provisions, Exceptions, Sanctions and Applications
    2. Rules Against Augmentation, and the Miscellaneous Receipts Act
  6. Availability of Appropriations: Time
    1. General Rule
    2. Bona Fide Needs Rule
    3. Prohibition on Advanced Payments
    4. Account Closing Law
  7. Obligation of Appropriations
  8. Interagency Transactions