Federal Budget Guidance and Analysis Since 1974

      What is your world like?
You are dealing with a budget system...that may be the most complex ever devised by the human mind.
      The backdrop...is that much of the publicity on the budget system goes to OMB & CBO.  But the vast work of budgeting is done mainly in departments & agencies.  Well not to forget that.  Some ideas start at the top & work their way down.  Others start at the bottom & work their way up.
But all of them are put together... priced, justified, defended, staffed, operated, reported & managed by people in agencies.  There’s a large network of participants all over gov’t who do the job.
As for OMB...it avoids operating responsibility like the plague.
      In accordance with its title...it is divided into two parts:
            A. The “budget” part
            B. The “management” part
Let’s take a look...at the budget side of the house.  This is the heart of the organization – despite repeated attempts for decades to have more emphasis put on management.
      Budget has the most people assigned.  Out of the total, about 2/3rds are in budget & less than 1/3rd in management with the remainder elsewhere – mainly in the Director’s staff offices.
Major responsibility...is reviewing & putting together the budget reviews.
Rests with the four PADs, Program Associate Directors...and their staffs.  They are political appointees.  Each one supervises divisions composed of professionals.  Your agency deals directly with at least one of them.
Despite all the theories & high-sounding phrases...their job is mainly to slice budgets & make it stick.  Agency managers are expected to ask for top dollar...OMB is expected to give them bottom dollar.  In all the fighting that goes on while putting the budget together – the PADS are at the heart of it.
Although OMB has other responsibilities...in procurement, financing, information & regulatory issues – the budget staff is the core element.  Issues the call...publishes Circular A-11 with instructions on submissions ...specific formats...determines back-up exhibits...recommends dollar ceilings for agencies...handles apportionments...as well as other things.  
Nobody ever accused OMB...on not paying enough attention to the budget.
 When special problems arise in gov’t...agencies are frequently advised to consult with the OMB staff that normally handles their appropriations.  In such cases - you deal with the PADs & their staffs.  In many cases you have a specific individual you deal with.  
      The gov’t couldn’t run without them...just as it couldn’t function without department & agency budget staffs all around town & all around the country.  Not to mention Europe, Asia & Africa.
OMB exudes power.  It’s at the center of gov’t.  Essentially, it speaks for the White House.  In your residential neighborhood - people are likely to be impressed if you work there.
     You can think of the area around the White House...as a kind of budgetary bulwark.  Most departments & large agencies are scattered around town.  Pentagon across the river, Labor down the road toward Congress.  Agriculture across the Mall, HHS just below the Hill, even further from the White House (although closer to Congress).  State up the road.
     But the White House is in the center.  On one side of the White House is the Treasury, the bulwark of federal finances & accounts.  
     On the other side is OMB...king of budgets.
And it is the budget...which provides the oxygen on which agencies survive.  It is always number one.  Without it, they die.  Accounting is very important...but isn’t in the headlines as often as the budget.
Along with this...goes top-down budgeting.  It grows with more activist Presidents.  But actually many things bubble up from the bottom.  Your inputs to the system are vitally important as a source of ideas, new departures.  This may affect your strategy for gaining support.
Your program analyst at OMB...is a key person in this chain – not to be overlooked.  OMB analysts have to defend their work thru OMB & to the Director’s review.  It’s the person you are likely to be most familiar with.  Many directives from OMB also stress the key role of its program analysts in providing specific guidance to you; clarification of new provisions; handling problems; consultation about formats.  Well to keep in touch during the year.  They are interested in knowing what’s going on.
OMB is overworked...just like budget types everywhere.  There aren’t enough hours in the day to do the job.  Every OMB Director testifies before Congress on this...expresses concern about burn-out.  Total staffing has been held down - partly to set an example for agencies despite the passage of many laws assigning new work to be done.
     Quite a few administrators wouldn’t be caught dead there.  They consider the work too negative & too far removed from reality to be enjoyable.  So they prefer to stick with their own departments or agencies.
But for others...it’s just the ticket.  Some join OMB right out of school
...spending their entire careers there.  Key professionals have been with the organization a long time.
Many of them like it fine.  However there are special problems.  Take a look at the way one previous OMB director described the work to a congressional committee:
       “OMB is very peak-load oriented.  When the Congress is dealing with the budget resolution, we are there all night trying to figure out what you did during the day in order to evaluate it by the next morning.  When we are in the middle of a crisis, we work 24 hours a day.”
You may be familiar with such conditions.  They are not unusual for federal budget & program types.
     One thing is absolutely clear...the budget is number one in OMB.  Everything else takes a back seat when the budget is hot.  But there is another part of the job...you should keep in mind.
To emphasize the management role...the old Bureau of the Budget was abolished in 1970 & replaced by the “new” Office of Management and Budget.
Notice the title...it places “management” before “budget.”  This was fully intended.  Federal systems were often outdated...the goal was to reemphasize OMB’s role in this regard.
      However, this is a whole other subject in itself.
      Budget and Program Newsletter...is a weekly publication that has been reporting since 1976 – the dawn of the modern budget era.  We touch on numerous elements of the budget & how it affects you at the program level.  To do your job well, it is essentially to have technical input on a regular basis.  
Have a look at our inventory letters...for what to expect.
      Start looking forward to Monday morning...when the 4-page newsletter can be provided to the entire office (up to 10 individuals) for the cost of a single order, $295/year.