Budget Shenanigans – And You
Congress is about to pass its fourth continuing resolution funding government operations in as many months. Legislators who claim to desire an “effective and efficient” government are failing to uphold one of their primary constitutional duties – the power of the purse codified in Article 1, Section 8, of the U.S. Constitution – that can actually enable federal executives to deliver upon that objective.
As I’ve written about before, the congressional budgeting and appropriations process is desperately broken, with lawmakers deciding on a budget and timely appropriating funds to agencies enough times to count on one hand over a 40-year period. Talk about accountability.
Absent an agreement on spending priorities and allocation levels for defense and non-defense agencies and programs, it remains unclear if Congress will pursue another CR through the conclusion of this fiscal year or if a one-two year omnibus spending deal can be reached.
Should Congress continue down the path of CRs, the President’s forthcoming budget submission will be basically dead on arrival, since agency reform and reorganizations will not be able to be authorized and funded. That outcome may be a boon for some agencies, while it also will perpetuate inefficiencies and duplication in government.
Amidst all of this, the direct impact of the non-stop budget shenanigans on federal agency managers, programs, and agency operations has not been analyzed in a comprehensive and systems-level manner. Agencies often tend to not calculate the waste and inefficiency of preparing for government shutdowns that do not ultimately occur, for umpteenth budget scenarios, added costs due to inability to start or extend acquisitions, etc. because doing so would require expending valuable resources on a non-mission activity. We have some agency-specific data points, for example in December, Navy leadership said that the service had wasted $4 billion dollars since 2011 due to failure of Congress to do its job on appropriations.
Have you or your organization quantified and calculated the waste and damage to operations resulting from such shenanigans? Even if not, do you have stories or qualitative descriptions highlighting how Congress’ inability to do its job makes your job much harder? If so, SEA wants to hear from you! We’re looking for short, impactful statements, as well as details that can help contextualize them.
On February 26 the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is holding its first annual Better Budget Process Summit, entitled Rebuilding Confidence in Congress: Breaking Through on Budget Reform. SEA has been invited to prepare a white paper reflecting the experiences and insights of federal executives about how the broken budget and appropriations process affects your jobs and the effectiveness and efficiency of agency and programmatic operations.
Yours are important voices and perspectives in this debate that have seldom been considered or solicited. Contact SEA Executive Director Jason Briefel (email@example.com) to share your story.
By Jason Briefel, SEA Legislative Director
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