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54

APRIL 2016

|

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

AFSA NEWS

The American Foreign Service Association closely follows the

discussions within the administration that help shape each

year’s federal budget request and the subsequent budget

process on Capitol Hill.

We regularly speak to members of Congress about the

importance of maintaining a strong and continuous opera-

tions resource base to enable the Foreign Service to effec-

tively fulfill its mission, even as U.S. foreign policy priorities

shift over time.

We aim to keep our members informed of the latest

developments and encourage proactive engagement with

elected officials and their staffs.

This article is the first of several that AFSAwill present on

the FY 2017 federal budget proceedings now getting under-

way.We include a primer on the process that highlights the

critical junctures of which our members should be aware

.

On Feb. 9, President Barack Obama submitted his Fiscal Year 2017 budget request to Congress. Here are a few ite

ms

that AFSA is tracking.

Foreign Affairs Agencies’ Operating Expenses:

The

budget includes $5 billion for Diplomatic and Consular

Programs—personnel, infrastructure support and operat-

ing costs—representing a 6-percent increase over current

levels. USAID’s operating expenses are set at $1.4 billion—a

9.5-percent increase. The International Trade Administra-

tion is listed at $521 million—a 10.5-percent increase; the

Foreign Agricultural Service is at $2,224 million—a 9.9-per-

cent decrease; and the Broadcasting Board of Governors is

at $777.8 million—a 10.3-percent increase.

Security for Diplomatic and Development Facilities:

The budget request contains $135 million for security pro-

grams and overseas diplomatic and development facili-

ties—a 6.1-percent increase over current levels. This figure

includes funding for embassy security, construction and

maintenance; Diplomatic Security Bureau operations; and

ongoing repair and safety of overseas real property assets.

Paid Parental Leave:

The budget plan calls for six weeks

of paid parental leave for federal employees on the birth,

adoption or foster placement of a child. The proposal would

make explicit the right of new parents to use sick leave to

care for a new child.

Cybersecurity:

In response to last year’s data breaches

at the Office of Personnel Management, the budget request

includes $37 million to continue upgrading OPM’s com-

puter systems. Part of a new cybersecurity action plan,

AFSA ON THE HILL

President Obama’s FY 2017 Budget Request

Background: The Federal Budget Process

In 1921, the U.S. Congress passed the Budget and Account-

ing Act requiring the president of the United States to submit

a budget for consideration by the Congress. Although the

president’s budget proposal is not law, it provides a roadmap for

executive branch policy priorities. Similarly, the reaction of the

Congress to the president’s proposal has substantial implica-

tions for the work of the Foreign Service.

Eight Months Prior: Agency Budget Requests

The budget process is labor-intensive, beginning each spring

with discussions at the agency level. Each agency must submit

a request to the Office of Management and Budget in late

summer or early fall. OMB then reviews, modifies and sends

the requests back to the agencies by November. In December,

agencies make their final appeals to OMB, and in January OMB

resolves appeals and proceeds to assemble the president’s

budget proposal for the coming fiscal year.

The Government Accountability Office, Congressional

Budget Office and U.S. Department of Treasury play important

roles in providing data and analysis that help shape and identify

priorities that make it into the request.

February-March: The President’s Budget Request

The president traditionally presents the budget request to

Congress in early February. The document offers the presi-

dent’s major program proposals and analysis of historical

budgetary trends. The administration must also release a “Mid-

Session Review” on July 15 that takes into account changes in

the overall budget scenario due to congressional action.

May: Concurrent Budget Resolution

Once the president has put his administration’s budget

proposal on the table, the House and Senate Budget Commit-

tees focus on drafting, marking-up, voting and reporting their

respective budget resolutions with the aim of eventually pass-

ing a concurrent budget resolution (i.e., Congress’s own budget

plan). The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control

Act of 1974, which established the budget process as we know

it, requires final adoption of the concurrent budget resolution to

be completed by April 15—a deadline that often goes unmet.

The budget resolution’s main purpose is to develop a

framework—including aggregate budget levels and discre-

tionary spending limits—within which appropriations commit-