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FCW : September 30, 2015
12 September 30, 2015 FCW.COM 6N o one really expects the appropriations process to function seamlessly these days. Congress and the president have produced full appropriations for all branches of government only four times in the past 40 years. This year looks like no exception. Barring an unlikely outbreak of bipartisanship, there doesn’t appear to be enough time left in the fiscal year and the congressional calendar to enact all the appropriations bills before fiscal 2016 begins Oct. 1. That means either a continuing resolution or a shutdown. Missing the fiscal year deadline isn’t anything to be too alarmed about, said Doug Criscitello, who served as chief financial officer at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Small Business Administration and is now executive director of MIT’s Center for Finance and Policy. It’s fairly routine for Congress to pass a six-week continuing resolution early in the fall session to provide time to resolve outstanding budget issues before the Thanksgiving recess. However, sometimes multiple CRs are required to keep the government open. There were seven in 2011 and five in 2012. Although multiple short-term CRs are less disruptive than a full or partial government shutdown, they do carry costs borne by agency officials, including: 1. OMB’s scrutiny Relationships between agencies and the Office of Management and Budget can be strained in the best of times. But during a continuing resolution, OMB handles the tricky business of apportionment — doling out funds to agencies in a way consistent with the length and terms of the CR. If an agency has an expense that is outside the ordinary, OMB must approve it. During a CR, OMB can “take on an aura of the trustees’ role in a corporate bankruptcy,” Criscitello said. OMB’s guidance makes the point painfully clear: “Because of the nature of CRs, you should operate at a minimal level until after your regular fiscal year appropriation is enacted.” 2. Lost productivity For each short-term CR, agencies must conduct a great deal of compliance activity. “From a management perspective, it’s a lot of paper work,” said John Palguta, a longtime government human resource manager and currently vice president for policy at the Partnership for Public Service. “That’s certainly a big headache for CFOs and others. You feel like you’re spinning your wheels sometimes.” The activity includes creating guidance for programs and offices, making and disseminating new spending plans for each CR, and responding to congressional and intergovernmental requests for information. The FBI estimated that its accountants and others spent 600 hours on CR-related management activity in 2009, according to a Government Accountability Office study. 6 hidden costs of continuing resolutions BY ADAM MAZMANIAN 20 15 Federal List 0930fcw_012-028.indd 12 9/9/15 10:23 AM
September 15, 2015