Federal Budget Process
Overview. The Reclamation Service Center and individual Regions have wide latitude to develop internal policies and procedures for effective execution of appropriated funds and other budgetary resources. The principal mechanism in Mid-Pacific Region is the Region operating budget. The operating budget is essentially an "organization budget." The primary purpose of the Region operating budget is to distribute and effectively manage budgetary resources received through the formulation, presentation and legislation phases of the budget.
The operating budget is formulated concurrently with the legislation phase of the budget year budget. The operating budget execution phase runs concurrently with the execution phase of the budget. Operating budget execution includes periodic program evaluation and reconciliation to accommodate changes in program and revenue balances (e.g. Water and Related Resources, P&A, etc.) that occur during the budget year.
The operating budget process promotes effective execution by:
- Defining and prioritizing the work or the purpose of each Region activity.
- Identifying the types and cost of resources necessary to support approved activities.
- Identifying funding source(s) or customers.
- Managing Regional Office and Area Office indirect costs.
- Providing supporting data and justification for customer assessments.
- Assisting in management review, control, and decision making.
Formulation. (3 - 5 months) The MP Region operating budget is formulated and managed by organization. This is because Region organizations are generally established on the basis of either functional specialization or geographic area of responsibility, rather than on the basis of an exclusive project or appropriation.
The Region operating budget is workload based. Consequently, in formulating the operating budget, each office manager must project his or her organization's total workload for the budget year regardless of funding source. For example, in addition to planning studies, the Chief, Planning Division must coordinate within the Region to identify how much work the Division staff is expected to perform in support of Facilities Operations and Restoration Fund activities.
Each organization operating budget is consolidated and presented on the basis of budget object class.
Execution. (14 months) Operating budget execution is a continuous process requiring a total team effort by Region managers, employees and Region support staff.
Region managers are accountable for managing their programs within their approved operating budgets. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Establishing and maintaining internal controls consistent with the Anti-Deficiency Act and other laws, regulations and practices governing sound and effective management of public funds. At a minimum, Region Managers should clearly document the terms and conditions which accompany delegation of financial authority to project managers and other employees.
- Ensuring that all program activities are charged to the appropriate fund, project, activity or job. This requires training and orientation of subordinate staff to ensure time and attendance, purchase orders, contracts, requests for personnel action and other source documents originating in their organizations reflect appropriate fund codes and conform with the Reclamation account structure.
- Monitoring obligations against budgeted amounts. The primary tools for this are the MRB 2000 and the Reclamation Financial Information Reporting System (FIRS). MRB 2000 is run monthly during the year. MRB 2000 compares budgeted amounts against actual obligations for each object code, and calculates funds remaining. Managers may review daily obligations through FIRS in a wide range of formats (e.g. by any combination of cost center, object code, project, etc.)
- Initiating modifications or changes to their operating budgets as circumstances require. Within the MP Region, managers have the authority to realign funds among object classes; or among Divisions, Branches or Sections within their organizations; or between their organizations and others. A realignment is an administrative action which adjusts budgeted amounts in the organization's approved operating budget.
The Region does not have authority to unilaterally "realign" funds between funds or projects, or otherwise adjust approved appropriation levels. In such cases, the Region must request the Washington Office approval for funds transfers. Basically, the Washington Office has the authority to transfer funds between funds and projects within the following limits:
Programmatic Reprogramming Guidelines (fund transfer limitations). Reclamation's authority to transfer funds between projects without prior notice to the Appropriation Committees (Submission of Reprogramming Requests), is based on language contained in House and Senate reports accompanying the Energy and Water Development Appropriation Bills. Currently, Reclamation adheres to the reprogramming rules as stated in the Conference report (H. Report 105-749) accompanying the FY 1999 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Conference bill which is provided as follows:
- Interior is directed to conform to the following reprogramming guidelines. Reclamation is permitted to transfer, without prior Congressional approval and without regard to percentage limitation, not more than $5,000,000 in any one case to provide adequate funds for settled contractor claims, increased contractor earnings due to accelerated rates of operations, and real estate deficiency judgments, provided that such reprogramming is necessary to discharge legal obligations of Reclamation.
- As to each project within the Resources Management and Development category for which $2,000,000 or more is available at the beginning of the fiscal year, Reclamation is permitted to transfer to such project in that fiscal year no more than fifteen percent of the amount available at the beginning of fiscal year for such project, without prior Congressional approval. As to each project within the Resources Management and Development category for which less than $2,000,000 is available at the beginning of the fiscal year, Reclamation is permitted to transfer to such project no more than $300,000 in that fiscal year without prior Congressional approval.
- Reclamation is further permitted to transfer funds within the Facility Operation, Maintenance, and Rehabilitation category without prior Congressional approval and without regard to percentage or dollar limitation.
- Reclamation may not transfer, without prior Congressional approval, more than $500,000 from either the Facilities Operations, Maintenance and Rehabilitation category or the Resource Management and Development category to any project in the other category. Reclamation is prohibited from initiating any program, project or activity through an internal reprogramming action.
The above guidelines appeared under Water and Related Resources, however, the Loan Program also follows these reprogramming guidelines. For some appropriations, there is only one line item in the Appropriations Act, therefore, the reprogramming guidelines do not apply (i.e., Policy and Administration, CVP Restoration Fund, California Bay-Delta Restoration). Permanent mandatory accounts require no appropriation and therefore the reprogramming guidelines also do not apply (i.e, Colorado River Dam Fund, Trust Funds, Lower Colorado River Basin Development Fund (revenues only), Upper Colorado River Basin Fund (revenues only), and Miscellaneous Appropriations.
Please note that funds available at the beginning of the fiscal year is defined as the amounts approved by Congress for the current fiscal year, plus the actual carryover amount (before reallotment) for that project.
Program or funding revisions (also know as fund transfers).
- The Regions or Offices may submit a request to W-6320 at any time. The request is to include the project name and appropriation, the amount needed, the justification of need, the source of funds, a contact for additional information, the critical date by which the funds are needed, and any backup tables that may be required.
- W-6320 staff will review to determine if within the reprogramming guidelines. If exceeds the limitations within the guidelines, the transfer requires the approval by the Appropriations Committees through a reprogramming letter (see guidelines below). If determined within the guidelines or an approval has been received by the Appropriations Committees, the requests are approved according to the chart below:
- Once approved, the Region or Office is notified by an approval letter which provides authority to obligate the funds. That approval letter plus revisions to the Finance Table provides new obligational authority for those projects and activity levels involved.
Transfers (reprogramming) requiring approval by the Appropriations Committees. A reprogramming letter is prepared by the Region or Office and submitted to W-6320. The following guidance is provided in preparation of reprogramming letters:
- Use of the term "transfer"and never "reprogram" in the text.
- Ensure that activities named are correctly identified.
- State the purpose for which the funds will be used.
- List future impacts of the reprogramming or lack thereof.
- List source of funds and why a surplus is available. The transfer must not appear to cause a shortage in the program or projects from which the funds are taken. Likewise, the source must not be a controversial project, especially of the addressee.
- Prepare a note to reviewers, as necessary, which includes copies of all appropriate and applicable laws, statutes and requirements/information in the reprogramming request folder. This may facilitate approval and minimize questions as the request moves through approval process (this may be initiated in the region).
Reprogramming letters are signed by Interior and submitted to Congress through OMB. Original letters are sent to the Chairman and Ranking Minority Members of both the House and Senate Subcommittees on Energy and Water Development.
In addition, individual projects or purposes may have specific limitations, and fund transfer authorities cannot supersede those restrictions.
Operating budgets are adjusted only after a funds transfer or reprogramming request is approved.
Timely and accurate fund analysis is critical to the decision-making process for maximum accomplishment of individual programs as well as the Region's total program. For this reason, Budget Services monitors, analyzes and advises program managers on fund utilization throughout the budget execution phase. Reclamation monitors overall Region utilization.
Estimates on monthly rates of fund utilization for each program are made at the beginning of each year to facilitate Reclamation-wide monitoring.
Fund utilization analysis is performed monthly on each program to:
- Assure that utilization is occurring in accordance with the approved program and held within obligational authority limits.
- Determine if sufficient funds are available to execute the various actions included in the approved program.
- Determine at the earliest possible time the extent of any shortages or surpluses.
- Develop funding strategies to obtain maximum utilization for individual programs and/or for regional or Reclamation requirements.
- Provide fund status data to management and interested parties and/or organizations.
The content and detail of individual analyses may vary in size and type of program but the process basically focuses on:
- Funds obligated through the reporting period and projections of requirements through the end of the fiscal year compared to available funds.
- The detail determined by the major and/or critical items included in the program which may be by:
- Object class (Total or Selected)
- Individual acquisitions/contracts
- Charges from other offices
Summary data reflecting the status of each funded program as well as for the total Reclamation appropriation, are consolidated, published, and distributed monthly for Reclamation-wide review and use.
Budget Services also exercises delegated responsibility for prevalidation of funds for obligations over $25,000.