What are Your Budgeting Challenges?

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This topic contains 13 replies, has 11 voices, and was last updated by  Allison Primack 10 years ago.

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  • #145422

    Shannon Kennedy
    We all know it’s a rough time to be a budget analyst. Budgeting has changed from justifying increases to determining cuts. What are your greatest challenges? What challenges do your fellow Budgeteers face? The road ahead may not be clear, but federal budget professionals are continuing to move forward.
    This makes you wonder:

    -How easy or difficult is it to operate under a continuing resolution?

    -What is the hardest part of being a budgeting professional?
    -Who is the ideal budgeting new hire of the future?

    This summer, more than 250 federal budget analysts shared their experiences and views on the current state of federal budgeting as part of the American Association of Budget and Program Analysis’ (AABPA) first Survey of Federal Budget Professionals. The results are in and ready to share! The results of this survey as well as answers to these questions above will be broadcast next Wednesday, November 16th, at the AABPA Fall Symposium 2011.
    Before we head to the symposium to see what your fellow govies said, we want to hear your thoughts.
    What are your challenges?

  • #145448

    Allison Primack

    I am taking budgeting course for my MPP next semester, so I am looking forward to the responses on this thread!

  • #145446

    Amanda Rhea

    As you said, we have to justify our existence and defend ourselves from cuts. The level of detail we have to provide to those who report to Congess has led to some pretty time-consuming tracking activities. We spend more time tracking and reporting than we do analyzing to make good decisions about how our money is being/should be spent. (And this goes without saying: just at the time Congress is asking more questions they are also cutting budgets so we have less staff around to answer their questions). The real challenge is coming up with quick and easy ways to maintain and pull data so we don’t spend so much time just reporting.

  • #145444

    Thad Juszczak

    The good news is that things are going to get better fast. As soon as we quite buying coffee mugs with our agency logos and cut back on travel, we will get our hands around this $15 trillion deficit…… I can’t believe the President actually said,”we will get through this.” like it’s a little blip on road of ever greater government spending and debt. I love it when commentators say, “the US is not Greece or Italy.” Maybe, not yet… So my challenge is getting people to understand that we need to re-engineer our agencies to smaller, less expensive organizations that can still deliver effective results to stakeholders but at a permanently reduced cost. Thad

  • #145442

    Our unemployment trust fund is in the hole by $2.75 billion. It’s funded by employer contributions when they pay unemployment, but the recession wiped out the fund and then some.

    We’re stepping up collection efforts …. but this one’s going to take awhile

  • #145440


    The biggest challenge I think, sometimes, is keep up our own morale–I absolutely love my job, but as you stated, these *are* tough times to be in budget.

    To put in context for any non-budget geeks reading this ;), an agency level budget office/analyst is often the first or only person/people to know a lot of stuff, sometimes great and thrilling stuff but also sometimes fairly scary/depressing stuff, that is not or cannot be disseminated beyond the budget office (and perhaps select members of senior leadership).

    Additionally, in effect sometimes things can seem rather akin to the guys on the castle wall in the Lord of the Rings movies during the Siege of Rohan–depending on one’s agency and particular function; one may be recently spending a great deal of time trying to defend their agency, their existing budget, their existence, etc., and may possibly suspect strongly that it may not make a bit of difference in the end (or perhaps that it may make a difference, but things will still be awful; just *less* awful than otherwise). And despite this all, one still pours their heart and soul (and many, many hours of unpaid overtime) into it, desperately trying to prevent the potentially inevitable.This sometimes lead to one feeling occasionally that their job description is turning into: “Go down fighting”.

    As an agency-level budget analyst, you often feel a great deal of pride in being able to basically look at any part of your agency mission and know you had a hand in making it possible–in effect, while you don’t make things happen on the ground, *nothing* can happen without your contribution and effort. The unfortunate downside and flipside of that is when things go badly, you cannot help but feel a sense of shame and responsibility, even if you know you did your best and gave 120%.

  • #145438

    Heidi Martin

    Will the results of the survey be publicly available following the symposium?

  • #145436

    Scott Kearby

    I don’t have any first hand knowledge about the challenges for budget analysts, but I can speak from the perspective of someone who had to execute programs within a budget. I worked facilities O&M at an ANG base in Baltimore for over 20 years. I don’t ever remember a year where we did not operate under a continuing resolution … and had to delay / postpone any new programs or projects until the Congress actually passed the budget bills. Meanwhile the time I had available to execute the programs and projects ticked away … then I and the rest of the staff had to accelerate 12 months of work into the remaining 6 months. It was a real pain, and it happened year after year because the Congress cannot or will not meet their deadlines.

  • #145434

    Peter Sperry

    I believe this is the best time ever to be a budget analyst. The core reason for our existance is to help senior executives allocate scarce resources to achieve organizational objcetives. For most of my working lifetime, government resources have been anything but scarce. The standard answer to just about every policy question has been to throw money at it and when that proved ineffective, throw more money. Now that citizens are waking up to the fiscal mess this type of thinking has created at every level of government; they are demanding that elected officials who want to keep their jobs actually do the hard work of allocating newly scarce financial resources to achieve organizational objectives. Which means for the first time in 50 years, budget analysts get to do the job we trained for rather than function as glorified bookkeepers whose primary task was making sure everyone spent their full appropriation before the end of the fiscal year. Yes, budget formulation now demands more effort than just taking last years numbers, adjusting for inflation and adding as much as the program managers demand, We actually have to help senior executives weigh alternatives and make hard decisions. Budget justifications consisting of “we want it, give it to us” (yes, I’ve seen many that were about that simple), are no longer acceptable. All of this is not a problem, it is an opportunity. Good budget analysts who can provide senior executives with the information and analysis needed to produce positive results with constrained resources are 10 times more valuable than those who simply record ever larger numbers in the right cell on a spreadsheet.

  • #145432

    Steven Clyburn

    Yes, at http://www.grantthornton.com/publicsector under publications, but not until Wednesday the 16th.

  • #145430

    Heidi Martin

    Thank you, Steven!

  • #145428


    Very true.Of course, unfortunately one is sometimes given very little to no flexibility with what the cut will be in and what form it will take and where it will hit, as it may be dictated down to the agency from various sources outside agency leadership. At that point, one’s data analysis and justifications tend to turn instead towards presenting the likely impacts of such actions and/or attempting to appeal them, rather than being able to guide agency managers to a sustainable strategy and smart practices and trade-offs; as when the exact formula / location / type of reductions are dictated or even partially dictated down down without ability for agency management to have full decision making powers, it completely removes the ability of management to make those choices and appropriately manage an organization.

    A prime example of this: A mandated ATB, especially if it were to be at double-digit or near double-digit levels. Completely destroys agencies flexibility to weigh alternatives, make choices and trade offs, keep mission essential items operating, etc.

  • #145426

    Melissa Merrell

    The survey is now available! Read it here and see the conversations happening at the AABPA budgeteers group

  • #145424

    Steve Richardson

    I’m a performance analyst with significant responsibility for reviewing budgets and could not agree more, Peter. Prioritization is not something we are accustomed to dealing with but we are learning quickly!

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