Legislative Branch

Extend Time to Obligate/Spend Appropriated Funds

Suggestion: Extend the period of time to obligate appropriated funds for capital investments to at least one year past the point where the budget is signed by the president instead the end of the fiscal year of appropriation. At present, the Federal government is required to obligate funds in the fiscal year in which they are appropriated and authorized. Unfortunately, in recent years we have not been getting budgets until several months into the fiscal year. This hampers agency operations at the beginning of the fiscal year due to operation on a reduced level of funding and then results in a flurry of hasty activity to spend everything in the time remaining. Because contracting actions take time, this only really gives us a few months to obligate an entire year’s worth of funds for new programs or initiatives. In many cases, the money is simply dumped into comprehensive multi-year contract vehicles as quickly as possible. While this satisfies the requirement to spend the money, it often does not allow us time to consider more efficient, economical or effective ways of using the funds to achieve what Congress and the President ask us to do. However, this should not apply to the entire budget. Recurring obligations for programs authorized in previous fiscal years (entitlements, payroll, rent, utilities, etc.) should still be managed on a strict fiscal year basis in accordance with the current requirements if they do not require new procurement actions. This will require Congress to clearly identify whether they are reauthorizing existing programs or appropriating funds for new ones. In addition to the benefits of having more time to make intelligent use of capital investment funds, this will also allow better scrutiny of how much “new money” appropriators are asking for and whether or not they have attempted to reduce existing spending or obtain additional revenue accordingly. (Assuming deficits matter, that is.) Thank you for your consideration.

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Idea No. 10662