This year’s budget process is different from what we normally do but is very similar to the budget submittal for FY 2002 as a new Administration came into office. NASA, like most federal agencies, will develop two budget requests this year. The first is the normal 5-year budget developed during our Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution (PPBE) cycle. The second budget is developed under a set of rules established by the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990, as documented in OMB Circular A-11.
With only two weeks between the Presidential Inauguration and the due date for submitting the President’s budget to Congress, there is insufficient time to develop and deliver a budget request. Thus, the federal government has developed a process for managing the budget delivery in years with a change in Administration (such as what happened eight years ago). The memo from OMB Director Jim Nussle (PDF) explains the process for developing this budget. Each agency is asked to develop a “current services budget.” This budget is simply the current appropriation (FY 2009 if enacted, else the equivalent of a full-year continuing resolution), with no changes to subsequent years other than inflation.
The PPBE process is well under way and although it is not required to be delivered to OMB, it is necessary to develop the PPBE budget as this provides the updated details for execution in FY 2009, as well as the integrated 5-year baseline for understanding the second budget. This year, no budget reviews will be conducted with OMB directors, and there will be no formal passback process.
We will work with OMB on issues that may arise with ongoing programs due to the difference between the PPBE baseline and the current services baseline. This will help OMB form position papers that will be presented to the new Administration’s transition team. The current services budget also becomes the starting baseline for NASA’s discussions with the incoming transition team that will typically start in November, as soon as the election is clearly settled. Understanding how this baseline differs from the PPBE baseline, and understanding the options for resolving any issues will be important in preparing for the incoming team.
Finally, an updated budget will be developed by the new Administration for submittal to Congress in April, which will then become the new Administration’s initial 5-year plan for NASA. This will likely draw heavily on the details developed during PPBE, as well as any strategic decisions made by the new team. So as we work through the current PPBE cycle, we must recognize that any PPBE proposals for changes in strategy or overguides will be compared to the current services budget and not the PPBE cycle when we begin discussion with OMB in September and the transition team in November.
I would like to thank David Schurr, NASA Comptroller, for his contribution to this week’s blog.