Are Written Guidelines Needed To Establish New Agencies' Funding Needs?

Gao ID: FGMSD-80-64 August 6, 1980

GAO was asked to inquire into the need for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to publish guidelines for new Federal agencies to follow in preparing requests for initial or supplemental budgets to cover their first year of operation. The request was prompted by problems the Merit Systems Protection Board encountered when it began operation in fiscal 1979. The Board originally did not get enough funds to cover its operating costs for the year and experienced some difficulty in obtaining the needed funds.

Analysis of the problems that the Board had in obtaining funding for operation showed that the Board had some unique problems, including the fact that the Board was given additional responsibilities in its charter beyond those originally planned, and the fact that the Board's operation was expected to be relatively small in the first year but was later increased by managerial decisions. Both of these conditions developed after the initial budget was submitted to Congress and would not have been avoided even if general guidelines existed. Additionally, OMB officials believe they could not identify any instances where general guidelines would have helped overcome budgeting problems of new agencies. Each new agency has a unique set of problems that must be resolved individually. Thus, GAO believes that general budgetary guidance could be developed for use by new agencies, but it would be impractical to develop guidance covering all possible problems that might develop. Moreover, it is doubtful whether the guidance would be a useful supplement to existing mechanisms in handling new agencies' budgetary problems.

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