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The Budget Process

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Federal Budget

Reclamation's Budget


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navigate in the page--The Federal Budget

Redefine accomplishments in the budget--look at accomplishments in terms of managing resources rather than developing resources.

The U.S. Constitution specifies that all spending authority originates in the Congress. However, the President traditionally develops a budget and proposes it to the Congress. The Congress then modifies these requests and develops an annual Federal budget. When a majority in both the House and Senate pass the budget and the President signs it, it becomes the Federal budget.

Congress can change anything in the President's proposed budget. However, members of Congress usually add or delete items in response to policy goals, local constituents, or interest groups. After Congress has passed the budget and the President has signed it, Reclamation uses the funds to carry out the authorized activities.


navigate in the page--Reclamation's Budget

Proposed activities to solve water resource problems stem from various sources: the public, Reclamation field staff, local governments, etc.

During the agency's budget formulation process, proposed actions and budgets are defined and ranked according to regional and administrative priorities. A budget guide is available to help estimate activities.

Budgets and authority may be coming from multiple sources. Ensure that everyone (Congress, supervisors, team members, and partners) understands why and how funds are spent. Get partners to help with this.

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(See the scientific way to budget.)

Reclamation's budget now goes through eight steps:

  1. The public asks for help to address water resource management problems and needs through local governments, private organizations, or other avenues. Reclamation's field staff translates those needs and other identified problems into proposed activities leading to workable solutions.
  2. Two years before the fiscal year the budget goes into effect, Reclamation sorts through these proposals and develops the Commissioner's proposed budget.
  3. The Department of the Interior (DOI) considers budgets for all the departmental agencies and develops the Secretary of the Interior's proposed budget to submit to OMB, which is part of the Executive Branch.
  4. OMB considers the proposed budgets from all the departments and develops the President's budget.
  5. The President presents this budget to the Congress about 9 months before the fiscal year will start.
  6. Congress considers the President's budget in subcom-mittees and committees and holds hearings on key budget items. Each subcommittee and committee has an appropriations ceiling; thus, they have a limited amount of dollars to spend on the programs under their purview. These committees consider the public's input and requests, modify the President's budget, and develop a series of appropriation bills.
  7. Congress votes on these bills. If the House of Representatives and Senate bills differ, then a conference committee is set up to resolve the differences. The passed bills are then sent to the President to sign.
  8. The President can either sign or veto these bills. Vetoed bills are sent back to the Congress for reconsideration and revisions.

After the budget is adopted, Reclamation uses the funds to carry out authorized activities. Program and Activity Budgets Within the approved Federal budget, each funded activity is treated as a line item with a specified amount of money. Each office or activity leader develops a program or project budget (in conjunction with an action plan ) to plan how these funds will be spent.

navigate in the page--Common Mythperceptions

Examine what you think about the budget process--you may find surprising ways to be more effective.

Formulation of the Federal budget may be driven by some unconscious assumptions or mythconceptions* that need to be overcome when developing activity budgets, such as:

Each agency acts alone to solve problems.
Money set aside for a single agency planning effort is sometimes better spent working with partners rather than attempting to work in a vacuum. Meeting with groups and helping build partnerships can:
  • Address current and future problems
  • Save funds (other participants may already have the data you need)
  • Build constituencies which, in turn, can ask the Congress for funding and support
The problem is static.
An activity takes at least 2 years to get funded requests go through a lengthy decision process at various levels of government. In the meantime, problems and contexts may have changed. Although conditions may differ, managers are often evaluated on how closely estimates and expenditures match. Comparing these conditions may help managers form more flexible and effective estimates and explain changes in spending priorities.
The solution is already known.
Line items in the budget are sometimes interpreted as pre-assuming specific physical solutions. For example, calling a line item allocation "Green Apple Dam Study" may lead someone to presuppose that building or improving Green Apple Dam is the only (or best) way to provide a water supply. Looking beyond the line item name can open up other solutions (e.g., water conservation).


navigate in the page--Go On

Without funding, you don't have a decision.

Dragon Tour wide-eyed dragon on the loose Constitution <----> Reclamation's role








Note: These files were developed and were originally hosted at the Bureau of Reclamation, United States Department of the Interior.
I am hosting this as an archive. Contact Deena Larsen (deenalarsen AT for further information.