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Changing the US Government's Budget Process to Support Management Improvement

Like many other countries, the U.S. is newly concerned about the level of public debt.  New projections of its Congressional Budget Office are that current policies will cause debt to rise for the foreseeable future. Higher interest rates to service that debt will squeeze other federal government spending.  Last year new legislative caps were enacted on discretionary (annually appropriated) federal spending.  This part of the federal budget funds administrative expenses as well as most programs. 


Spending caps increase the challenge of funding needed investments in government’s capacity to manage its many commitments and meet future shocks.  Despite evident need to invest in greater government capacity, recent history suggests that a constrained budget environment will bring pressure for across-the-board cuts in administrative spending.  A smarter strategy would be to invest in greater administrative capacity, thereby removing impediments to agile and responsive government. Over time, that would save money and improve performance. Policymakers interested in reducing deficits without abandoning their priorities or weakening performance, and those who oppose revenue increases to pay for more government, may each gravitate toward management efficiencies as the least painful way forward.

In this context, the IBM Center for The Business of Government and the Shared Services Leadership Coalition convened a roundtable of federal management and budgeting experts to explore ideas for strengthening its support for management improvement.  A subsequent report, Opportunities for Management when Budgeting, draws insights from that session and presents a range of possible changes supportive of management improvement when developing the President’s annual Budget, during congressional review and appropriations, and in executing the enacted budget. 

The current federal budget process presents obstacles to such investments at each stage of the process.



Here is a sampling of options described in the report to revise the U.S. federal budget process in ways that support management improvement:  empowering government managers to be more agile and responsive, leading to administrative efficiencies, budget savings, and better outcomes: