Budgeting 101: What Every Federal Employee Needs to Know about the Budget

He who controls the budget, controls where it’s going.

Know the rules and move mountains.

Edward Brigham, AABPA Speakers Bureau Coordinator and John Stehle, Senior Analyst for the Government Accountability Office focused on these two concepts during this 101 session on the budget at this year’s NextGenGov Summit in Washington.

Ed and John encouraged the room of the importance of taking time to learn and understand the budget and ultimately continue to build on the basics. During the 50 minute breakout session they posed important question about the budget, provided a brief history for context, defined key budget terminology, gave a brief budget overview and encouraged everyone in the room to tap into budget resources to enhance their agency’s budget.

After all, the budget is always at the table.

Do people understand the budget?

It’s complex. It takes time to learn and change. Take the time and move mountains/control where it’s going.

Budget Terminology

  1. Budget Authority: Legal authority to enter into obligations is provided in legislation specifying.
  2. Obligations: A definite commitment creating a legal liability of the government
  3. Outlays: Payments from the treasury to liquidate government obligations.

The President’s Budget reports follow this schematic (authority à obligations à outlays).

  1. Appropriation: Legislative language that provides budget authority and permits a federal agency to incur obligations and make payments from Treasury (outlays).
  2. Authorization: A statutory provision that establishes or continues a federal agency, activity, or program.
  3. Discretionary spending: Provided in appropriations acts, requiring annual action by Congress and the President.
  4. Mandatory (direct and/or entitlement) spending: Provided by permanent law, or effectively controlled by permanent law. Often, amounts result through eligibility criteria and payment formula.
  5. Continuing Resolution (CR): Continues funding for a program if the fiscal year ends without a new appropriation in place. Provides funding at current levels or less.
  6. Sequester: Provides for the automatic cancellation of previously enacted spending, making largely across-the-board reductions to non-exempt programs, activities, and accounts. Implemented though a sequestration order issued by the President as required by law.

The Budget Process Overview

  • Executive Budget Formulation
  • Congressional Budget Process
  • Budget Execution and Control
  • Audit and Evaluation

Top 5 Budget Resources

  • Generalist
  • Program Analyst Budget Analyst

All of the following “Budget 101” information can be found on the AABPA programs PowerPoint here.

Page 16 of the AABPA “Budget 101” PowerPoint provides direct links to budget resources.

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