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Federal Budget Process


Introduction. Budgeting is the process of translating long-range management decisions into specific short-term financial plans. These financial plans outline expected accomplishments and estimate resources over budget periods (fiscal years) necessary to meet those accomplishments.

Once the agency's financial plans are incorporated into the President's Budget, they become the primary basis for defining the agency mission as well as individual program missions. They also provide a measurement base for organizational and individual performance.

It is important to recognize that "Budget" is a relative term. At any particular time, Reclamation is actually engaged in one or more phases (formulation, presentation, legislation, execution, evaluation) of five fiscal year budgets:

Each of these fiscal year budgets are developed and presented on the basis of individual appropriations. In addition, the PY, CY and BY all encompass some phase of the Regional operating budget.

All of these--the five fiscal year budgets, the individual appropriation and fund budgets and the Region operating budget-are commonly referred to by individual managers and employees as "the Budget." Depending upon the context of the discussion, however, they may really mean "the FY00 budget," the "O&M budget," the "2002 budget," the "Working Capital Fund budget," the "Area Office budget," or the "Division budget."

To complicate things even further, different organizations or employees may confuse terms, or use different terms for the same budget. For example: "the President's Budget", "the President's Budget Request", "the Official Budget", "the Executive Budget", and "the Congressional Budget" are often used interchangeably to describe the President's February budget submission to Congress.

Regardless, while there are multiple "budgets", there is basically only one budget process. The primary purpose of this particular module is to describe in sequence the key milestones and activities involved with that process.

Authority. Agency budgets are based upon the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 and amended by the Budget and Procedures Act of 1950 which:

Confidentiality. Budget estimates and supporting documents are considered privileged communication and as such are confidential. This confidentiality is maintained until the official submission of the budget to Congress by the President.

This restriction or "embargo" occurs because agency estimates are the basic data used by the President in resolving budget problems and arriving at conclusions with respect to recommendations made to the Congress.

The head of each office is responsible for preventing premature disclosure of budget data.