Environmental Protection Agency

Comparing Annual Budgets for Science and Technology Gao ID: T-RCED-00-132 March 23, 2000

The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) budget justifications for fiscal years 1999, 2000, and 2001 differ significantly from the agency's justifications for fiscal year 1998 and earlier years because they were organized according to the agency's strategic goals and objectives. This testimony discusses the difficulties that GAO experienced in comparing EPA's Science and Technology budget justifications for fiscal years 1999 and 2000 with the preceding years, the actions EPA took to improve the clarity and comparability of the fiscal years 2000 and 2001 justifications, and aspects of the fiscal year 2001 justification that still inhibit clear comparisons with prior year budgets.

GAO noted that: (1) for the FY 1999 budget justification, the requested amounts could not be easily compared with amounts requested or enacted for FY 1998 and prior years because the justification did not show how the budget would be distributed among program offices or program components--information needed to link to the prior years' justifications that were constructed along these lines; (2) EPA's FY 2000 budget justification followed the same basic format as used in FY 1999--reflecting the agency's strategic goals and objectives--but EPA revised several of its strategic objectives without explanations or documentation to link the changes to the preceding year's budget; (3) for example, funds were reallocated from one objective to others without identifying the objectives that received the funds or amounts involved; (4) to improve the clarity and comparability of its budget justifications for FY 2000 and FY 2001, EPA included tables that detail, for each objective, how amounts were allocated among key programs; (5) in addition, the agency made available to Congress backup information identifying program offices that would be administering the requested funds; (6) the agency also implemented a new accounting system that records budget data by goals and objectives, which enhances reporting financial data by goals and objectives; (7) for FY 2001 budget justification, EPA used the same strategic goals and objectives that were in the 2000 budget justification, which facilitates comparisons of the two budgets; (8) however, GAO's review of FY 2001 justification identified three aspects that still inhibit comparison with the budget justifications of prior years; (9) in the tables showing the key programs associated with each objective, EPA did not consistently show the same percentage of the funds associated with the programs; (10) for example, in many cases, the amount shown for key programs under an objective is less than the total allocation for the objective, while in one case the sum exceeds the total for the objective; (11) the FY 2001 justification, as did the 2000 justification, does not clearly account for funds transferred from Superfund to the Science and Technology account; and (12) the 2001 budget justification also changes the allocation of certain agency administrative funds across the strategic goals and objectives, without fully identifying how the funds were allocated in previous years.

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