Elements: Budget Authority Appropriated and Other Budgetary Resources

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Data Element Name Category Legislation
Budget Authority Appropriated Financial Information DATA Act
Other Budgetary Resources Financial Information DATA Act

Background

a. The DATA Act requires agencies to report several kinds of financial information, including budget authority appropriated by Congress and other budgetary resources made available by Congress.

b. The OMB SF 133 Report on Budget Execution and Budgetary Resources provides the most detailed reporting of budget authority and other budgetary resources in the federal government. In total, the SF 133 report sub-divides budget authority and other budgetary resources into more than 125 different categories. Each of these are defined in OMB Circular A-11 Appendix F.

Context

The Constitution require all federal spending to start with laws passed by Congress. Article I, Section 9, clause 7 of the Constitution states, in part, “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law…” Congress passes laws that provide one or more kinds of budgetary resources for each specific appropriations account. The agencies administering these accounts incur obligations and make outlays against these budgetary resources.

Budgetary resources fall into the following broad categories:

  • Appropriations, which corresponds to Budget Authority Appropriated in the DATA Act
  • Borrowing authority, which is a component of the DATA Act’s Other Budgetary Resources
  • Contract authority, which is a component of the DATA Act’s Other Budgetary Resources
  • Spending authority from offsetting collections, which is a component of the DATA Act’s Other Budgetary Resources
  • Unobligated balances, which is a component of the DATA Act’s Other Budgetary Resources.

Section 20 and Appendix F of OMB Circular A-11 define these terms as follows:

Appropriation means a provision of law (not necessarily in an appropriations act) authorizing the expenditure of funds for a given purpose. Usually, but not always, an appropriation provides budget authority.

Borrowing authority is a type of budget authority that permits obligations and outlays to be financed by borrowing.

Contract authority is a type of budget authority that permits you to incur obligations in advance of an appropriation, offsetting collections, or receipts to make outlays to liquidate the obligations. Typically, Congress provides contract authority in an authorizing statute to allow you to incur obligations in anticipation of the collection of receipts or offsetting collections that will be used to liquidate the obligations.

Spending authority from offsetting collections is a type of budget authority that permits obligations and outlays to be financed by offsetting collections. Offsetting collections usually result from business-like transactions with the public, including (but not limited to) payments from the public to a government account in exchange for goods and services, and gifts or donations of money. The authority to spend offsetting collections is a form of budget authority.

Unobligated balances are the amount of appropriations or other budgetary resources carried forward from the preceding year and available for obligation without new action by Congress.

Agencies track appropriations, other budgetary resources, and all financial activities in their financial systems. As is the case in the private sector, agencies use a standard chart of accounts, which is called the United States Standard General Ledger (USSGL), to record their financial transactions. The USSGL accounts for appropriations and budgetary resources are described in the Treasury Financial Manual Volume I Part 2 Supplement, Section V: Crosswalks to Standard External Reports for Fiscal 2015 Reporting.

Analysis of Current Definitions

a. The DATA Act requires that agencies report budget authority appropriated and other budgetary resources. In fact, however, agencies already use, as necessary, one or more of 125 sub-divisions of budgetary resources defined in OMB Circular A-11. In carrying out reporting required by the DATA Act, OMB should consider using these more detailed break-outs of appropriations and other budgetary resources.

b. The definitions for Budget Authority Appropriated and Other Budgetary Resources in OMB Circular A-11 and other government publications are very technical and are geared to the budget, financial and other communities in the federal government. While these definitions serve the needs of the intended audience, OMB should consider establishing and publishing an additional set of definitions that the public would find easier to understand.

Recommended Data Element Name Recommended Definition
Budget Authority Appropriated A provision of law (not necessarily in an appropriations act) authorizing an account to incur obligations and to make outlays for a given purpose. Usually, but not always, an appropriation provides budget authority.
Other Budgetary Resources New borrowing authority, contract authority, and spending authority from offsetting collections provided by Congress in an appropriations act or other legislation, or unobligated balances of budgetary resources made available in previous legislation, to incur obligations and to make outlays.

References

OMB Circular A-11:

  • Section 20, Terms and Concepts. See pages 3-8 for definitions.
  • Appendix F, Format of SF132, SF133, Schedule P, and SBR.

Treasury Financial Manual supplement United States Government Standard General Ledger, Part 2 Fiscal 2015 Reporting, Section V: Crosswalks to Standard External Reports for Fiscal 2015 Reporting, page V-89 and following for the USSGL accounts that are used in each line of SF 133, Report on Budget Execution and Budgetary Resources.