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:
glossary of government terms, many of which
relate to budget and appropriations. It has
more terms defined than does the Senate site.
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.
- An act of Congress that authorizes the use of
funds by Federal agencies.
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 -
to go there.
Establishes the relationships between resources
and the organization's programs, mission and
- 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.)
- 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
- Legal instruments by which Federal agencies
obtain services or materials from the private
- 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.
- The reservation of funds for a specific purpose
and its formal entry into agency's accounting
system so recording the reservation.
- 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.
- 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
- Fiscal Year
- The Federal fiscal year runs from October 1 to
the following September 30.
- 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"
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
text of the statute is also available.
- (Back to Process.)
- Gifts from the Federal government to persons or
entities designated by laws. Usually, there are
- Official in charge of carrying out studies,
investigations, and audits of agency
- An appropriation that makes funds available for
use for more than one fiscal year.
- Legally binding commitments to provide funds from
the Treasury to purchase goods or services.
- 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.)
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.
- 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.
- Term used for the materials submitted to support
the budget requested from Congress.
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
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.
- 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
- Lowest organizational level at which funds
control functions are carried out.
Generally the same as divisions in an operating
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
- 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.