Does The President’s Budget Matter – Plus The 7 Gov Stories That Matter

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  • TechAmerica has been working through a difficult period after four key executives left suddenly to start a competing public sector organization. Now, Mike Hettinger the newly hired Senior Vice President for Public Sector, is hitting the ground running. We get his top priorities.

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But up front: Does the president’s budget matter?

The Obama administration on Tuesday will issue its fiscal 2015 budget. A few facts that we all know (but we don’t say):

  • The papers will be filled with stories dissecting the administration’s budget -- most of them saying that programs are getting more (or less) money;

  • Most of those numbers will not become reality;

  • By in large, the administration’s budget will not be passed.

Most of these facts have been true for years, yet there seems to be a growing sense that the budget process is wasted. (Of course, Congress rarely passed the 12 spending bills by the October 1 start of the federal government’s fiscal year.)

NPR said:

Once upon a time, the president's budget really was the starting point for making spending decisions in Washington. The budget spells out how much money the government expects to collect in the coming year, and suggests how it should be divvied up among various agencies and programs.

As an editor, I told reporters that the budget mattered because it gave an idea of the administration’s priorities. But budget watcher Stan Collender, from the communications firm Qorvis and author of the Capital Gains and Games blog (which recently moved to Forbes.com), recently suggested, It's Time To Eliminate The President's Budget.

The value of the president's budget has diminished further as Congress has seen less and less need each year to adopt a congressional budget resolution.

Regardless of whether it has been Senate Democrats who either were unwilling or unable to pass a budget or House Republicans refusal to go to conference with the Senate, Congress' failure to do what it is legally required to do each year by the Congressional Budget Act has further transformed the president's budget from what should be a serious part of the policy process into nothing more than an act of political self-flagellation…

My suggestion? Change the Congressional Budget Act so that the president is not required to prepare and submit a budget the year after Congress fails to adopt a budget resolution. If Congress wants a presidential budget to play with, it has to produce a plan of its own.

In the meantime we should all save a few trees or bytes of memory when the president's budget is released. It's just not going to mean very much and should not be taken that seriously.

There is a proposal by Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI), which has some movement on Capitol Hill, to do biennial budgeting. From Ribble:

Congress consistently fails to pass a budget and the appropriations bills on time. Since 2001, Congress has only enacted 8.3% of appropriations bills before the deadline. Congress then relies on short-term spending bills that create more economic uncertainty and disdain among the American people. As a result, Congress wastes billions of dollars allocating funds to programs that are wasteful and duplicative because it doesn't have enough time to properly review those departments and agencies and their budget and spending activities.

More on the bill from Congress.gov.

Does the president’s budget tell you anything? Does it help you do your job better? And would a biennial budget help?

All of this being said, we will follow it.

From GAO: Navigating the Complexities of the Federal Budget: They include a budget glossary, agency level questions, long-term fiscal outlook

And some things to watch: The Hill: Obama budget: 8 things to watch for

  1. How much spending, how much debt?
  2. How much in tax increases?
  3. What does the White House think the economy will look like when Obama leaves office?
  4. What's in the new $56 billion stimulus package, and how is it paid for?
  5. What does the White House say about an immigration bill?
  6. How exactly does the Defense budget get cut?
  7. How is the $300 billion infrastructure fund paid for?
  8. Are there any entitlement cuts, and will they hurt Democrats in the election?

And from The Washington Post: Hard-hit federal training gets Obama’s attention: When President Obama presents his 2015 fiscal year budget proposal Tuesday, he’ll serve an appetizer to a crucial area of government that has been on a starvation diet: federal employee training. The administration isn’t saying how large its initiative is, but it would take big serving to get training where it needs to be.

The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. Federal News Radio: Feds thank OPM for early call on government closure: “OPM posted the decision around 6:45 p.m. Sunday in anticipation of a snow storm hitting the region overnight Sunday and during the day Monday. “

    1. Related: GovLoop: 3 Ways to Use Snowstorms to Improve Your Agency

    2. Related: GovLoop: 7 Keys to Unscheduled Telework Success

  2. Federal Times: Lawmakers: 1 percent federal pay raise faces opposition, bigger raise off the table - “While federal unions push for a bigger pay raise than the 1 percent President Obama will propose in his 2015 budget, lawmakers say that any raise faces a fight.”

  3. FCW:  Government should backstop efforts to protect grid - “A successful cyberattack on the nation's power grid could bring unimaginable chaos. Incident reporting from the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team indicates that the grid is a popular target among adversaries, with 59 percent of the 256 critical infrastructure attacks in 2013 involving the energy sector, particularly electrical systems.”

  4. Washington Post: Hard-hit federal training gets Obama’s attention - “When President Obama presents his 2015 fiscal year budget proposal Tuesday, he’ll serve an appetizer to a crucial area of government that has been on a starvation diet: federal employee training.”

  5. Federal News Radio: OSTP asks agencies for 'bold, ambitious' open government initiatives: “The administration's open government initiative has been quiet after its initial push during the first two years of President Barack Obama's administration. But new guidance from the Office of Science and Technology Policy is trying to reinvigorate agency efforts.”

    1. Read the White House Office of Science and Technology blog post: We Love it When a Plan Comes Together…

  6. GovExec: OPM Director to Feds: ‘I Am Here for You’ - “Katherine Archuleta, the relatively new director of the Office of Personnel Management,  vowed on Friday to improve the working experience of federal employees as well as the public’s perception of the government workforce. “

  7. Defense One: The Army Wants You to Build Them A Laser truck - “The Pentagon has put lasers on planes and on ships. Now, the Army Space and Missile Defense Command has issued acall to industry to help it build a 50-kilowatt laser that can fit on the back of a mobile-home sized truck.”

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