Budgeting During Transition

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Typically, agencies develop their budget proposals two years in advance. So the FY 2010 budget would normally be under preparation in agencies this summer. In a normal year, that budget proposal would be submitted to the Office of Management and Budget in September, with OMB providing its recommendations back to agencies in late November, followed by the budget’s formal submission by the President to Congress, by law, no later than the first Monday in February.

But we all know this is not a normal year. With the election year environment, OMB has adopted a different schedule. Budget expert Carl Moravitz, the president of the American Association for Budget and Program Analysis (and a former agency budget director), helped explain it to me.

OMB Director James Nussle, in a memo sent to agencies on April 7, 2008, set out for Departments and Agencies the revised process for preparation of the FY 2010 budget that:

  • Lays the groundwork for the incoming Administration; and
  • Facilitates development of that budget during the period of Transition.
  • Agencies will not submit budget proposals in September but will be responsible for submitting “baseline data” information for FY 2010, upon request by OMB
  • The technical MAX & FACTS actual data must be incorporated by agencies during the week of November 5-19;
  • The technical MAX baseline data will be incorporated by agencies in the November 19th though December 10th timeframe;
  • Agencies will provide economic updates, as appropriate; and
  • Performance information developed as part of OMB’s Performance Assessment Rating Tool and agency performance reports will continue to be developed within scheduled timelines.

Departments have been encouraged to continue their systemic review of proposals for Fiscal Year 2010, so that they will be positioned to present and deliberate on important policy changes to their program agenda during the faster track assessment process of Transition. That faster track will likely be part of the fuller budget request to Congress of total agency requirements that would likely be submitted in March/April 2009 timeframe.

The potential confusion factor is that many observers believe Congress will not pass the fiscal year 2009 budget before the end of the fiscal year (September 30) and may use a continuing resolution to temporary fund the government until the new president takes office. This would mean that the new president would have to deal immediately with the fiscal year 2009 budget while simultaneously develop a fiscal year 2010 budget.

What Are Agencies Doing?

As Carl notes in the v-blog, agencies are already beginning to lay the groundwork for FY 2010 by preparing and reviewing baseline and current services requirements to inform OMB during the Fall 2008 schedule. They are also continuing to review potential new initiatives being developed by agency bureaus and components – including the regular resource reviews and the standard coordination with other critical processes, such as the Investment Review Board process for selected capital projects and Strategic and Performance Plan processes.

What’s Been the Historical Timeframe?

While no one seems to recall a continuing resolution facing a new president, there are some historical timetables that may be of interest, says Carl Moravitz:

During the 2001 transition OMB released an FY 2002 Transition/ Baseline Budget to Congress on January 12th. OMB’s passback appeal process took place between January 31, 2001 and February 10, 2001, a 7- to 10-day window for complete resolution of decisions surrounding all agency budget proposals. President Bush submitted a “Blueprint” of his budget on February 28th, followed by the full budget for Fiscal Year 2002 on April 7, 2001.

Carl’s advice to budget officers: catch up on your sleep now!

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