Budget Analyst - Federal Agency Money Matters


Glossary of Terms

This is a selected glossary based on the needs of this site.  There are specialized glossaries elsewhere on the web that you may find useful:

Capitol.Net Glossary Capitol.Net's glossary of government terms, many of which relate to budget and appropriations.  It has more terms defined than does the Senate site.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z #

Select the first letter of the word from the list above to jump to appropriate section of the glossary. If the term you are looking for starts with a digit or symbol, choose the '#' link.


- A -

Appropriations
 
An act of Congress that authorizes the use of funds by Federal agencies.
 
Authorization

Authorization laws have two basic purposes. They establish, continue, or modify federal programs, and they are a prerequisite under House and Senate rules (and sometimes under statute) for the Congress to appropriate budget authority for programs.  There is a good discussion of authorization and appropriations and their similarities and differences at the Senate Appropriations Committee web site - click to go there.

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- B -

Budget Analysis

Establishes the relationships between resources and the organization's programs, mission and functions.

 

Budget Formulation
 
The activities related to the development of the plans for work and request for funds for the operations of a Federal agency.
 
 
Budget Examiner
 
A Federal position classification term applied to budget analysts who work at OMB. ("Budget Examiners" only work at OMB.)
 
Budget Execution
 
The activities related to use of funds appropriated by Congress.  Includes the detailed planning of the use of the funds as well as the control of their use to assure that Congressional intent for the use of the funds is preserved.

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Contracts
 
Legal instruments by which Federal agencies obtain services or materials from the private sector.
 
Cooperative Agreements
 
Legal instruments by which Federal agencies enter into arrangements with private parties or non-Federal government entities for mutually beneficial work, where the Federal government provides only a part of the funds.
 
Commitment
 
The reservation of funds for a specific purpose and its formal entry into agency's accounting system so recording the reservation.
 
Cost elements
 
Everything that affects what an agency has to spend money on. It includes payroll, facilities, supplies and materials, services, and contracts. The cost elements in the Federal government are called "objects of classification" (or object classes), and are fully defined in OMB's Circular A-11.
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- D -

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- E -

Earmark or earmarks
Item identified for specific funding by Congress in the reports associated with the appropriations process regardles of other concerns or specifications in the appropriations act or its reports.
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- F -

Fiscal Year
 
The Federal fiscal year runs from October 1 to the following September 30.
 
FTE
 
Full-time equivalent. A measure of hours paid to employees on the government's payroll. One person working full time for a year uses one FTE, including vacation and sick leave. It does not include overtime and other "premium" pay.
 
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- G -

GAO
 
General Accounting Office.  A part of the Legislative Branch in charge of financial auditing as well as many other investigative and evaluative function for Congress.
 
GPO
 
General Printing Office.  A part of the Legislative Branch in charge of all printing activities of the Federal government.  Also very involved in electronic distribution of (formerly) printed materials.
 
GPRA
 
The Government Performance and Results Act.  Legislation that attempts to establish a direct relationship between the use of Federal funds and the delivery of services by government agencies.  More information on GPRA requirements can be found at OMB's web site.  The actual text of the statute is also available.
 
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Grants
 
Gifts from the Federal government to persons or entities designated by laws. Usually, there are strings attached.
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- I -

IG (Inspector General)
 
Official in charge of carrying out studies, investigations, and audits of  agency operations.
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- M -

Multi-year Appropriation
 
An appropriation that makes funds available for use for more than one fiscal year.
 
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- O -

Obligations
 
Legally binding commitments to provide funds from the Treasury to purchase goods or services.
 
OMB
 
Office of Management and Budget. The President's agent in implementing budget policies and controlling the use of funds by agencies. Sets policies for development of agency budget requests and how funds may be expended by agencies. (Back to discussion.)
Operating Component or Element

Major organization below those headed by the agency heads and those reporting directly to the agency heads.  The organizations that are responsible for getting things accomplished.  These components are usually headed by career SES people, at the higher ranks (SES 5 or 6).   The size of these organizations is of a few hundred or more people and generally control $30 to $100 million in discretionary funds.

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- P -

Passback
The information sent back to the agency, passed back to it, on its requests for funding.   The "passing back" led to the term "passback."  Also see passback page in the process section for a full explanation.
President's Budget
 
Term used for the materials submitted to support the budget requested from Congress.
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- R -

Reprogramming
 

A change in the allocation of resources in a budget.  Resources are programmed with the budget, and a change is another programming, or a reprogramming.   In practice, a change is called a reprogramming if it exceeds certain thresholds.

An approved budget usually consists of specific amounts of money appropriated for specific accounts.  Within each account there may be additional restrictions on what the money may be used for.  A reprogramming is whenever funds need to be changed in ways that would violate any of the conditions of the appropriation law. The law or the report associated with the law usually specifies what is considered a reprogramming and the conditions under which reprogramming may be carried out.

For an example, click for the FAQ on reprogrammings.

 
RFP
 
Request for proposals.  A formal public announcement opening a procurement action.   RFPs specify what the government wants to procure and the conditions that must be met by the persons that are to provide what the government is seeking.
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Responsibility centers
 
Lowest organizational level at which funds control functions are carried out.   Generally the same as divisions in an operating component.
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SES or Senior Executive Service
 
A personnel classification in the Federal civil service used for senior positions, generally managerial positions.  SES positions are above the positions classified in the General Schedule (or GS), and below the political appointees who head agencies and departments, such as agency administrators and departmental secretaries.
 
Supplemental
A budget request submitted to Congress separately and after the regular budget submission due by the first Monday in February.  Generally related to unforeseen circumstances, such as funding for disaster relief.
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Copyright 1998-2010 Laszlo Bockh and Mary Blakeslee