Workshop Summary: Federal Budget Process 101

The current budget crisis has sparked increased interest in the U.S. budget process. InterAction hosted a timely workshop Thursday morning, “Federal Budget Process 101,” to educate participants about the basics of the budget process. Ken Forsberg, senior legislative manager at InterAction, led a thorough discussion of the process, while the panelists—Khushali Shah, managing director in the Office of the Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance; Michael Casella, director of the Office of Budget and Resource Management at USAID; Adam Ross, program examiner in the Office of Management and Budget’s International Affairs Division; and Steve Marchese, minority staff assistant for the House Appropriations Committee State, Foreign Operations Subcommittee—provided important insight into each of their offices’ processes.

The presentation began with a look at the inception of agency budget proposals almost two years prior to the beginning of the fiscal year.  This budget process was traced through submission of proposals to the Office of Management and Budget and then on to Congress.  Forsberg explained the breakdown of the budget between mandatory and discretionary funding and the timeline of the process from the president’s budget submission to the completion of the annual appropriations bill.

After the presentation, participants asked questions pertaining to the current budget crisis.  When asked about the prognosis for international affairs, Marchese said that including international affairs in the security portion of the initial Budget Control Act spending cap was actually to the advantage of the foreign assistance community.  To conclude the program, Forsberg asked what ways NGOs could best engage in the budget process. Everyone on the panel agreed that NGOs’ input was beneficial because it provided insight from the field.  Casella emphasized that NGOs spend too much time talking with those who already support their cause.  They should instead focus on those who need convincing.   

By Tawana Jacobs, associate director of public relations at InterAction