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Federal Budget A No-Show

Obama Administration delays release of fiscal 2010 federal spending package

by Susan R. Morrissey
February 9, 2009 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 87, Issue 6

Credit: Dreamstime
The Obama Administration's first budget will be late by about two months.
Credit: Dreamstime
The Obama Administration's first budget will be late by about two months.

THE DETAILED presidential request for the fiscal 2010 federal budget will be delayed at least two months to allow President Barack Obama to make adjustments to agency requests.

By law, the President must submit his proposed budget for the next fiscal year to Congress on the first Monday in February. This year, however, Feb. 2 came and went with no fiscal 2010 budget in sight.

This missed deadline is not the first by a first-term President taking the executive branch reins from the opposing party. In fact, the Clinton Administration in 1993 and the Bush Administration in 2001 both released their budget requests late.

"Every new Administration has extra time to submit its first budget," says Kei Koizumi, director of the R&D Budget & Policy Program at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He adds that "theoretically, Congress should still get the appropriations passed by Sept. 30," which is the end of the current fiscal year.

But for several years now, Congress has not been able to clear the federal budget prior to the start of the fiscal year it covers. And that is a bigger problem for agencies than the delay of next year's budget proposal, according to Koizumi.

In fact, all agencies outside of those funded by defense, homeland security, and military construction-veterans affairs spending bills, are currently operating under a congressional resolution that is continuing funding at 2008 levels. This resolution expires on March 6.

Congress was expected last week to take up an omnibus federal budget bill that would have finalized 2009 spending levels for the year. But because of Congress' focus on the stimulus package (C&EN, Feb. 2, page 8)—which further complicates the budget process by adding more uncertainty for agencies about their funding levels—action has been delayed until later this month. Details of this omnibus bill have not been released.

As for the 2010 budget, White House Office of Management & Budget Director Peter R. Orszag says that the Obama Administration will put out an overview of its budget later this month. The full detailed budget is expected this spring.



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