A Defense Budget Primer
CRS Report for Congress
A Defense Budget Primer
December 9, 1998
Mary T. Tyszkiewicz
Analyst in National Defense
Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division
Specialist in National Defense
Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
This report is a primer for those who wish to familiarize themselves with the defense budget
process. The report defines basic defense budget-related terms, describes the structure of the
defense budget, briefly reviews the budgeting process within the Department of Defense
(DOD), and outlines the successive phases of the congressional defense budget process. It
also provides a short review of the budget execution process. This report will be updated only
in the event of significant changes to the defense budget process.
A Defense Budget Primer
This report is a primer for those who wish to familiarize themselves with the
process through which Congress acts on the U.S. defense budget. The report defines
basic defense budget-related terms, describes the structure of the defense budget,
briefly reviews the budget planning process within the Department of Defense (DOD),
outlines in some detail the successive phases of the congressional defense budget
process, and provides a short review of budget execution.
The defense budget is not a single document or product, but more a series of
spending commitments that can be measured and broken down in a number of
different ways. It can be defined, first of all, in terms of budget authority, obligations,
and outlays. Congress provides most of DOD's funds in the form of budget authority.
Agencies may then obligate the funds, and outlays occur as paychecks are issued or
progress payments are made on contracts. The defense budget can also be defined
broadly as the National Defense Budget Function or more narrowly as the
Department of Defense budget. The structure of the defense budget as considered in
Congress differs significantly from the structure of the budget as it is formulated by
the Department of Defense.
The defense budget process has three main phases. The first phase is preparation
of a budget request by the Executive Branch. The Department of Defense has
developed a sophisticated mechanism, known as the Planning, Programming, and
Budgeting System (PBS), for formulating long-term budget plans and preparing
annual budget requests to the Congress. The White House Office of Management and
Budget (OMB) is involved in the PBS process and formally submits the defense
budget request to Congress on behalf of the President.
The second part of the process is congressional consideration. The basic process
has three phases: the budget resolution, the defense authorization bill, and defense-
related appropriations bills. The annual budget resolution establishes targets for
defense budget authority and outlays, but the mechanism for enforcing the targets
allows considerable flexibility to appropriators. The authorization and appropriations
bills approve the defense budget at similar levels of detail, though only the
appropriations process actually provides budget authority to agencies. Congress
frequently provides additional funds to the Department of Defense through
supplemental appropriations bills, which may or may not be accompanied by offsetting
rescissions of previously appropriated funds.
The final part of the process is the budget execution stage. After budget
authority is provided by Congress, the DOD may obligate funds to acquire goods and
services. The pace at which funds are made available for obligation is governed in
part by a process of allocations overseen by OMB. Congress allows DOD some
flexibility to reallocate appropriated funds under a process known as reprogramming.
Introduction ................................................... 1
Chapter 1: Basic Defense Budget Terminology
A Snapshot of the Defense Budget Process........................2
National Defense Budget Function and Department of Defense Budget...2
Budget Authority, Outlays, and Related Terms.....................5
Unobligated and Unexpended Funds............................10
Current and Constant Dollars..................................11
Measuring the Impact of Defense Spending on the Economy ..........13
Chapter 2: Structure of the Defense Budget..........................15
Defense Budget by Appropriations Title..........................15
Defense Budget by Major Force Program........................17
Defense Budget by Component................................21
Alternative Ways of Analyzing the Defense Budget.................22
Chapter 3: The Defense Budget Process.............................25
Planning .............................................. 27
Programming .......................................... 27
Budgeting ............................................ 28
Congressional Defense Budget Process..........................29
Concurrent Budget Resolution.............................31
The Relationship Between Authorization and Appropriations......44
Congressional Earmarks and Additions to Administration Requests.46
Transfers and Reprogramming.............................48
Expiration of Funds.....................................49
Repealing Budget Authority...............................50
Appendices ................................................... 52
Appendix B: Department of Defense Budget Appropriations Accounts With
Funding in FY1999.....................................54
Appendix C: Major Congressional Action on the
FY1999 Defense Budget.................................56
Appendix D: Guide to Basic Defense Budget Documents ...........57
Appendix E: Glossary of Defense Budget Terms ..................60
A Defense Budget Primer
Under the Constitution, Congress is responsible for raising and supporting the
Armed Forces of the United States. The Congress fulfills this responsibility in large
part through reviewing and enacting annual defense budgets. The programs funded
by the defense budget directly affect the ability of U.S. Armed Forces to defend the
country and protect national interests.
The defense budget also has a significant domestic impact. The size and
composition of the defense budget may affect the health of the economy, and the level
of defense spending is often a major issue in debate over national priorities.
Both the defense budget itself and the process of congressional review and
approval are complex. Even observers who regularly track the defense budget may
occasionally be baffled by defense budget terminology and procedures.
This report is a primer for those who wish to familiarize themselves with the2
defense budget process. The report defines basic defense budget-related terms,
describes the structure of the defense budget, briefly reviews the budgeting process
within the Department of Defense (DOD), and outlines the successive phases of the
congressional defense budget process. It also provides a short review of the budget
execution process. The reader should be aware that there are sometimes differences
between the way the defense budget process works in theory and how it works in
practice — not all variations in procedures are addressed here.
The report is divided into three chapters. The first two chapters describe the
product — the defense budget itself. The first chapter defines basic defense budget
terms, and the second chapter describes the structure of the defense budget. The third
chapter describes the defense budget process from the initial planning stage in DOD
through congressional action and budget execution. Finally, appendices provide
guides to some of the more important defense budget documents and a glossary of
key defense budget terms. A matrix labeled “Legislative History of the Defense
Budget” is also included on the last page of this report to aid the reader in tracking
legislative action on the defense budget as it unfolds over the course of a year.
This is a revised version of a report initially written in 1988 by Robert Foelber (CRS Report1
88-349F). The report was later updated by Keith Berner and Stephen Daggett in 1993 (CRS
Report 93-317F). This report supersedes those earlier versions.
This report is not , however, a source of up-to-date defense budget estimates, which are2
provided in other CRS and U.S. government publications (see Appendix D for a
bibliography). Nor does this report provide an analysis of substantive issues in the defense
budget debate, such as the appropriate level of total funding or priorities among specific
weapon systems. It is, rather, a guide to the defense budget process.
Chapter 1: Basic Defense Budget Terminology
A Snapshot of the Defense Budget Process
In its outlines, the defense budget process is straightforward. The process begins
with formulation of an annual defense budget request by the executive branch. In the
case of defense spending, the budget request to the Congress is formulated mainly by
the Department of Defense under guidelines established by the President through the
White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The request is formally
submitted to Congress by the President.
Submission of the budget is followed by congressional action. Congress
provides funds for defense programs mainly by appropriating funds in annual
appropriations acts, including the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, the
Military Construction Appropriations Act, and other appropriations laws. Congress
also authorizes defense programs through other legislation, mainly an annual National
Defense Authorization Act. The authorization process does not, however, provide
money for defense programs — instead it establishes the organizations responsible for
defense, sets policies, and determines the conditions and limitations under which these
organizations may carry on their activities. Annual authorization acts authorize the
appropriation of funds, but they do not actually provide the money.
The final step in the budget process is budget execution. When Congress
appropriates money for defense programs, it provides budget authority to
government agencies. Agencies are prohibited, mainly by the Anti-Deficiency Act,
from spending funds above the amount of budget authority appropriated or for
purposes other than those for which funds were provided. In order to comply with
these limitations, federal government agencies follow financial procedures that are
governed by official regulations. A key step in the process is when budget authority
provided by Congress is obligated. An obligation occurs when, for example, an
employee is hired or a contract for goods and services is signed. At the end of the
process are budget outlays, which occur when the government actually issues
payments to employees or to private parties.
This chapter reviews basic terms which will be important in following the budget
process discussed in later chapters. Terms discussed in this chapter include the
national defense budget function and the Department of Defense budget; budget
authority, outlays, and obligations; obligated, unobligated, and unexpended funds; and
current and constant dollars. The chapter closes with a brief discussion of measures
of the defense burden on the economy.
National Defense Budget Function and Department of Defense
The phrase “defense budget” is commonly used both in a narrow and in a broad
sense. In a narrow sense, the defense budget is the budget for the defense programs
administered and managed by the Department of Defense (DOD). In a broad sense,
funding for defense encompasses not only DOD programs but a number of defense-
related activities administered by other federal agencies including: (1) atomic energy
defense activities, administered by the Department of Energy (DOE); (2) civil defense3
programs, administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); (3)
draft registration and preparations to resume the draft, administered by the Selective
Service System; and (4) defense-related activities of some other agencies, including
the Coast Guard, the Maritime Administration, and the Federal Bureau of4
All of these activities are included in the national defense budget function, one
of 19 functions used by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to sub-divide5
activities in the federal budget into related categories. The national defense budget
function, identified by the numerical notation "050," is further divided into three sub-
functions, each of which is similarly identified by a numerical notation:
054 —Defense-related activities (civil defense, operation of Selective Service
System, defense-related activities of the FBI, etc.)
DOD also manages a number of civilian programs that are funded outside of the
national defense budget function. Among the DOD civil programs are civilian
construction projects of the Army Corps of Engineers (in budget function 301),
operation of Arlington National Cemetery (in budget function 705), operation of the
U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home (in budget function 602), and a small portion of
wildlife conservation on military reservations (in budget function 303). Funding for
these programs is not generally reported in DOD budget totals and is not discussed
in this report.
Prior to FY1985, the DOD budget included payments to military retirees. In
FY1985, this practice changed, and payments to retirees now are financed through a
trust fund in budget function 600, outside of the 050 National Defense Function.
Therefore, actual payments from the trust fund to retirees are not charged to the
defense budget. The DOD budget, however, does include amounts contributed to
the military retirement trust fund to cover the actuarially determined costs of
DOE defense programs include development of nuclear warheads and naval nuclear reactors;3
nuclear weapons safeguards and security; development of some arms control treaty
verification systems; production of nuclear materials for defense programs; handling and
reprocessing of defense nuclear waste; maintaining the nuclear stockpile; and environmental
cleanup of weapons production facilities.
The Defense Appropriations Act also provides unclassified amounts for CIA retirement and4
for intelligence community management and classified amounts for DOD and non-DOD
intelligence activities, including activities of the CIA.
For more information on budget functions, see Bill Heniff, Basic Federal Budgeting5
Terminology, CRS Report 98-410.
What was formerly sub-function 052 (Foreign Military Sales) was transferred to Function6
retirement benefits for current personnel, through a system called "accrual
The definition of defense spending has sometimes been controversial. Some
analysts argue that the 050 function does not actually include all the government
programs that properly should be counted as “defense” for purposes of calculating the
cost of military programs to the American taxpayer. These analysts say that the cost
of national defense also includes veterans’ benefits, international military assistance,
military-related activities funded through the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA), and the portion of interest payments on the national debt
attributable to borrowing in the past for military programs. For some analysts, an
even more comprehensive listing of defense programs would include the unfunded
portion of civil service retirement for DOD civilian employees, the Coast Guard, the
Maritime Administration, and the Impact Aid Program of the Department of
Table 1. National Defense Budget Function, FY1997-99
(budget authority in billions of current dollars)
Actual Estimate Enacted
FY1997 FY1998 FY1999
051 - Department of Defense, Military258.0258.0 265.1
053 - Atomic Energy Defense Activities11.311.712.6
054 - Other Agencies - Defense-Related Activities1.01.01.1
050 - TOTAL NATIONAL DEFENSE270.3270.7278.8
Sources: U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the United States Government:
Historical Tables, Fiscal Year 1999, Feb. 1998; Office of Management and Budget, "FY1999 Mid-
Session Review," August, 1998; Congressional Budget Office.
Notes: FY1998 amounts reflect an OMB estimate of FY1998 levels after supplemental
appropriations were enacted. FY1999 levels include supplemental appropriations for FY1999
provided in H.R. 4328 (P.L. 105-277), the omnibus, consolidated appropriations act for FY1999.
More typically, however, the 051 sub-function (DOD programs) is identified
with the defense budget in the narrow sense, and the national defense budget function
(050) is identified with the defense budget in the broad sense. The DOD portion of
the national defense budget function reached a peak of 97 percent of the 050 total in
Fiscal Year (FY) 1985 and held at about 95 percent from FY1993 - FY1999. The
percentage may fall further in the future due to the likely growth of DOE defense-
related activities, especially for environmental clean-up. Table 1 provides budget
totals for the 050 function and sub-functions for FY1997-99.
For a discussion, see Paul Murphy, The Military Tax Bite 1986: An Analysis of the Military7
Share of the Federal Income Tax, (Washington: Military Spending Research Services, 1986).
Table 1 and all of the budget tables that follow report annual funding by fiscal
year. A fiscal year is an accounting period of twelve months duration. The fiscal8
year is designated by the calendar year in which it ends. Thus, FY1997 began on
October 1, 1996 and ended on September 30, 1997. The Congressional Budget Act
of 1974 (P.L. 93-344) changed the dates of the U.S. Government’s fiscal year to
October 1-September 30 beginning in 1976. Previously the fiscal year ran from July
There are two important things to notice about Table 1. First, the dollars shown
represent budget authority — the amount which Congress provides when it
appropriates money for defense (and all other federal government) programs.
Second, the dollars shown are current dollars, i.e., they are not adjusted to reflect the
effects of inflation. The following sub-sections discuss these and related concepts.
Budget Authority, Outlays, and Related Terms
The defense budget — defined narrowly or broadly — can be measured in terms
of budget authority or outlays. Budget authority (BA) is the authority provided by
Congress to the Department of Defense and other government agencies to enter into
obligations for the provision of goods and services. Obligations are incurred by
signing contracts, placing orders, hiring personnel, making loans or grants, or the like.
(See 31 USC 1501.) Outlays represent the actual expenditure of funds in payment
for goods and services, usually in the form of a disbursement of cash, a check, or an10
electronic fund transfer.
A common misunderstanding is that the congressional authorization process
provides budget authority and the appropriations process provides outlays. In fact,
the authorization process authorizes the appropriation of budget authority, and
appropriations bills provide budget authority — Congress does not act directly on11
outlays levels. Rather Congress provides budget authority through the
appropriations process and outlays then occur as executive branch agencies execute
For more information on fiscal year, see Bill Heniff, The Federal Fiscal Year, CRS Report8
The three-month period in 1976 from July 1 to September 30 between the end of FY1976 (old9
system) and the beginning of FY1977 (new system) is known as the transition quarter and
is frequently labeled “197T” or “TQ” in budget documents.
The phrase “defense budget” usually refers to budget authority for defense programs, while10
“defense spending” usually refers to outlays for defense programs. The distinction is not
always made, however.
The following analogy may help to explain the difference between budget authority,11
obligations, and outlays. Suppose a parent decides to give money to a child to purchase a new
automobile. Budget authority is analogous to receiving authority from the parent to draw on
the parent’s bank account to purchase the new automobile. An obligation is incurred when
the contract is signed with the automobile dealer for delivery of the vehicle. The actual
writing of the check in payment for delivery of the automobile constitutes an outlay of funds.
A budgeting concept related to budget authority but used only by DOD is total
obligational authority (TOA). TOA represents “the value of the direct Defense
program for a fiscal year,” and is equivalent to the sum of all budget authority12
granted by Congress, plus amounts from other sources authorized to be credited to
certain accounts, plus unobligated balances of funds from prior years which remain
available for obligation. TOA will differ from budget authority for a given year
because of rescissions, reappropriations, new offsetting receipts, and unused budget
authority. In FY1998, Department of Defense TOA equaled $256.8 billion, while BA
amounted to $254.9 billion. The difference of $1.9 billion is accounted for by BA13
from previous years, transfers, and offsetting receipts.
The process through which budget authority is provided by Congress and leads
to outlays involves several steps, each covered by specific policies and laws. Almost
all budget authority for defense programs is provided by annual appropriations.14
In appropriating funds, Congress grants DOD the authority to incur obligations and
provides the Treasury the authority to make payments for specified purposes. Thus,
as a DOD budget manual explains, “[a]ppropriations do not represent cash actually
set aside in the Treasury for purposes specified in the appropriations act [but rather]
limitations of amounts which agencies may obligate during the time period specified15
in the respective appropriations acts.”
When Congress appropriates money for defense programs, it generally provides
all the costs of the activities approved up front in one fiscal year. This practice is
known as full funding. It was mandated by Congress in the 1950s to give full
visibility to the cost of weapons procured. Full funding means that all the money
estimated to be necessary to complete an entire project — such as production of 21
Trident missiles, overhaul of an aircraft carrier, or construction of an ammunition
depot — is approved at one time by the Congress, even though the actual work may
span many years.
As an exception to this practice, Congress sometimes provides funding for
advance procurement of “long-leadtime” weapons components, such as nuclear-
power plants for Navy warships. There has been some congressional debate during
Department of Defense Comptroller, National Defense Budget Estimates for FY1999,12
U.S. Department of Defense, Financial Summary Tables: Department of Defense Budget13
for Fiscal Year 1999, Feb. 1998, p. A1. RD&TE historical accounts are often reported in
Two other forms of budget authority are: (1) contract authority, or statutory authority that14
permits obligations in advance of appropriations but requires a subsequent appropriation or
the collection of receipts to liquidate (pay) these obligations; and (2) borrowing authority,
statutory authority that permits obligations to be incurred but requires that funds be borrowed,
generally from the Treasury, to liquidate these obligations.” U.S. Office of Management and
Budget, The Budget System and Its Concepts: FY1999, February 1998, p. 9.
Department of Defense Comptroller, Financial Management Regulation (DOD 7000.14-R),15
Volume 2A: Budget Presentation and Formulation, July 1996, p. 1-2.
the 1990s about full funding, especially for Navy shipbuilding, and a number of ship
programs have been only partially funded in annual appropriations measures. 16
Full funding does not guarantee that the project can be completed within the
amount appropriated, because costs may turn out to be higher than estimated due, for
example, to an inflation rate higher than expected, unforseen technical problems, or
subsequent design changes. In the late 1970s, inflation consistently was higher than17
assumed in the budget estimates for purchases of weapons and fuel. As a result, the18
services were often forced to buy fewer items than Congress planned when defense
appropriations were approved. From 1982 to 1987, however, inflation was less than
projected, resulting in what some commentators called an inflation dividend.
According to several estimates, defense was overfunded by anywhere from $18 billion19
to over $50 billion for the FY1982-86 period. In recent years, inflation has again
frequently been overestimated, and inflation "savings" have sometimes been used as
offsets for supplemental appropriations or for congressional additions to the defense
After budget authority is appropriated by Congress, it becomes available for
obligation by the relevant agency. Funds are obligated when the agency signs a
contract with a supplier or otherwise makes a formal commitment to pay for goods
and services. Appropriated funds must normally be obligated during the first fiscal
year for which they are provided, otherwise they expire. Appropriations bills typically
make money for some defense activities available for obligation for more than one
year. The length of time for which funds are made available for obligation is specified
According to the Department of Defense, advanced procurement is: “Authority provided16
in an appropriations act to obligate and disburse during a fiscal year before that in which the
related end item is procured. The funds are added to the budget authority for the fiscal year
and deducted from the budget authority of the succeeding year. Used in major acquisition
programs for advance procurement of components whose long-lead-time requires purchase
early in order to reduce the overall procurement lead-time of the major end item. Advance
procurement of long lead components is an exception to the DOD ‘full funding’ policy.”
(Financial Management Regulation, Volume 2A, p. 1-2.)
In 1970, DOD began including an inflation allowance in its estimates of the costs of major17
systems and construction. By 1976, costing to include inflation had been extended to all DOD
purchases and operation and maintenance activities.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, DOD budgets were underfunded by over $1118
billion in the FY 1978-81 period compared to the level of growth anticipated by Congress.
See: U.S. Congressional Budget Office, Budgeting for Defense Inflation, Jan. 1986.
These estimates are summarized in: U.S. House of Representatives, Armed Services19
Committee, "Coverage, Cumulation, and Compensation or Wherefore Art Thou Inflation
Dividend?" by Les Aspin, Mimeo, Sep. 3, 1986. Rep. Aspin concluded that the inflation
dividend probably amounted to between $35 billion and $50 billion. He also attempted to
determine what happened to the excess funds. He concluded that no more than about $18.5
billion of these funds could be accounted for through reprogrammings, expired appropriations,
and/or congressional funding cutbacks, with some portion of the rest going to defense
contractors in the form of excess payments.
in annual appropriations legislation. For example, the Navy has been given up to five
years to sign contracts for shipbuilding projects funded by Congress. 20
After funds are obligated, the Department of Defense will expend the funds only
as progress payments on contracts come due or as paychecks are issued. These
expenditures constitute outlays by the government. Some defense programs (such
as weapons procurement and military construction projects) may take several years
for a contractor to complete, so outlays may occur only quite slowly over a period of
As a result of these and other factors, the spend-out rate — or the rate at which21
appropriated funds are converted to outlays — varies with different programs. For
some activities, such as military personnel and operation and maintenance (O&M),
most of the money appropriated is spent in the first fiscal year for which it is provided.
DOD estimates that 94 percent of budget authority provided in FY1999 for military
personnel and 75 percent of budget authority for O&M will be expended as outlays
during the fiscal year. For other activities, such as procurement of complex weapons
and military construction projects, both of which take several years to complete, only
a small amount of the appropriated funds is spent in the first fiscal year for which it
is provided (about 22 percent and 15 percent, respectively of FY1999 funds). The
rest is spent in the years beyond the budget year, or the out-years, at rates that vary
from program to program.
The relationship between budget authority and outlays is perennially an
important factor shaping how Congress acts on the defense budget. In recent years,
defense budgets, like other parts of the federal budget, have been constrained by strict
limits on outlays imposed in an effort to meet deficit reduction targets. The ability to
control defense outlays, however, is circumscribed by the fact that a large share of
outlays in any one year actually results from budget authority provided in prior years.
Thus, only part of the defense budget, measured in outlays, is controlled by
congressional action on annual defense appropriations acts. In FY1999, for22
Note that these periods of availability are specified in each appropriations act every year.20
For example, the FY1999 Defense Appropriations Act [P.L. 105-262] opens by saying, "That
the following sums are appropriated, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise
appropriated, for the fiscal year ending September 30, 1999," and Section 8003 specifies
that "No part of any appropriation in this Act shall remain available for obligation beyond
the current fiscal year, unless expressly so provided herein." Exceptions to the one-year
availability of funds under this clause are specifically noted in the text of the law. For
example, the section of the FY1999 Defense Appropriations Act that provides funds for the
Aircraft Procurement, Army, account reads, "For construction, procurement, production,
modification and modernization of aircraft, ...$1,388,268,000 to remain available for
obligation until September 30, 2001." Appropriations bills typically make research and
development (R&D) funds available for two years; procurement funds (with the exception of
shipbuilding) for three years; and military construction funds for five years.
U.S. Department of Defense, Financial Summary Tables: Department of Defense Budget21
for Fiscal Year 1999, Feb. 1998 Table K.
Congress may, however, eliminate budget authority provided in prior years by means of22
example, DOD estimated that about 67 percent of outlays would result from budget
authority provided in FY1999 appropriations acts — the rest, 33 percent, would
result from budget authority provided in prior years. (For further discussion, see23
Appendix A, Spend-Out Rates and Defense Budget Reductions.)
Moreover, because different parts of the defense budget "spend out" at different
rates, Congress must carefully manage the balance between "fast spending" and "slow
spending" accounts when it makes adjustments to the defense request. If Congress
is concerned about military readiness, for example, it may wish to add money for a
military pay raise to the military personnel accounts or increase funding for training
in the operation and maintenance accounts. Because these accounts spend out very
rapidly, the effect would be a large, immediate increase in outlays as well as in budget
authority. If Congress wants to trim other, slower spending accounts to offset the
increases, a problem arises — it would require a disproportionately large cut in
budget authority for weapons procurement to balance the outlay impact of a relatively
small increase in personnel or O&M. The balance between budget authority and
outlays, therefore, is often a major consideration in the defense budget process.
The relationship between budget authority and outlays has also affected the
defense budget process in recent years simply because it is difficult to calculate
precisely the outlay impact of new defense budget authority. Outlays in any given
year, resulting from new budget authority and from budget authority provided in prior
years, must be projected based on historical experience. Because these numbers are
estimates, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Congressional
Budget Office (CBO) often disagree on projected outlays. In 1997, OMB estimated
that defense outlays in FY1998 would total $259.4 billion if Congress were to
approve the Administration request for $265.3 billion in new budget authority for
national defense. In its assessment of the same Administration plan, CBO estimated
that approval of the Administration program would entail defense outlays in FY1998
of $265.0 billion -- $5.6 billion higher. The concurrent budget resolution that year
resolved the issue by providing $266.0 billion in national defense outlays, enough to
accommodate CBO scoring with room for an additional $2.6 billion in budget
authority. The same problem, however, recurred in congressional action on the
FY1999 budget. This time, Congress dealt with the problem by allowing collections
from sales of Navy ships to foreign nations to be counted against the overall defense
budget and by instructing CBO to score outlay savings from changes in managing
DOD revolving funds — two exercises in accountancy designed to avoid painful cuts
in defense programs.24
budget “rescissions” — see below for a discussion.
U.S. Department of Defense, Financial Summary Tables: Department of Defense Budget23
for Fiscal Year 1999, Feb. 1998, Table J. Congress can reduce outlays from budget
authority provided in prior years by rescinding funds, but the use of rescissions to control
outlays presents the same problems as cutting funds from the annual budget — i.e., large cuts
in budget authority for weapons procurement would produce only limited outlay savings in
a given year.
For a thorough discussion of the issue, see Congressional Budget Office, "An Analysis of24
Unobligated and Unexpended Funds
Two budget concepts related to budget authority and outlays are unobligated
funds and unexpended funds. Unobligated funds refer to budget authority that has
been appropriated by Congress for specific programs, but has not yet been obligated.
Unexpended funds include both unobligated and obligated funds which have not yet
been spent as outlays. These two concepts — unobligated and unexpended funds —
represent intermediate points in the process that extends from the provision of budget
authority to the creation of outlays, discussed above. Appropriations create
unobligated budget authority. Then, when contracts are signed or other financial
commitments are made, the funds are obligated, but are still unexpended. Only when
the funds are paid out (by check or otherwise) do the appropriated amounts result in
outlays. It is important to note that unexpended funds, whether obligated or not, can
only be used for specific programs that have been congressionally approved.
Unobligated and unexpended funds are a normal byproduct of the obligation and
expenditure process. Unusually high unexpended and unobligated balances for
particular programs, however, sometimes act as red flags for congressional
appropriators overseeing military spending. Appropriators may consider the inability
to spend already appropriated funds in a given area as a sign of problems in a program
and as an indication that reductions in the next year's budget may be called for.
Moreover, amounts of unobligated and unexpended funds may increase if inflation
rates decline or if the dollar rises relative to foreign currencies in countries where the
U.S. military operates. In recent years, appropriators have used unobligated funds
caused by economic changes as a source of funds to offset supplemental defense
appropriations (see below for a discussion of rescissions of appropriated funds).
Figure 1: Department of Defense, Unobligated andTrends in the total
Unexpended Balances, FY1980-1999amount of unobligated and
unexpended balances have
350 sometimes been construedas an indication of the ability
300 Unexpended Balancesof the Department of
250 Defense to manage its
200 funding. As Figure 125
100 Constant FY99 $ in BillionsUnobligated Balances
CBO's Outlay Estimates for Appropriation Bills, Fiscal Years 1993-1997," CBO
Memorandum, October 1998.
Sources for Figure 1: CRS calculations based on Department of Defense, Financial25
Summary Tables: Department of Defense Budget for FY1999, February 1998, and versions
illustrates, unobligated and, especially, unexpended balances of funds grew
substantially in DOD over the course of the military buildup of the 1980s. At the
time, some analysts argued that the growth of these balances was evidence that DOD
was not efficiently spending the money appropriated by Congress and that the rapid26
growth of funding for new weapons programs was unwarranted. In recent years,
some Members of Congress have proposed measures to transfer a portion of
unobligated balances of DOD funds to other, non-defense purposes.
DOD officials point out, however, that unobligated and unexpended balances of
funds may grow for many reasons. In general, one would expect unobligated and/or
unexpended balances to grow (1) along with growth in the overall budget and (2) as
the share of the budget devoted to procurement programs with relatively slow spend-
out rates increases. In addition, part of the growth in unexpended balances may be
explained by lower than expected inflation rates, which means that costs of various
programs are lower than anticipated when funds were appropriated, so not all the
appropriated funds must be obligated or expended. Finally, changes in contracting27
practices mandated by congressionally initiated procurement reforms may lower rates
of payments to contractors, thereby adding to unexpended balances. 28
Current and Constant Dollars
Budget authority and outlays can be measured in either current dollars or
constant dollars. Current (or “then-year”) dollars measure the cost of goods and
services in terms of prices prevailing at the time of purchase. Constant dollars
measure the cost of goods and services in terms of prices in a given (constant) year.
Fixing the purchasing power of the dollar to a given year eliminates changes in prices
due to inflation in comparing budgets from year to year. By calculating defense
funding in constant dollars, one can measure real growth (or real decline) in the size
of the defense budget — that is, changes in purchasing power — over time. Growth
in the defense budget measured in current dollars is called nominal growth.29
from prior years.
See, for example, Jeffrey Colman and Raul Madrid, The Pentagon Funding Backlog: Can26
the Defense Department Manage More Growth?, Washington, Defense Budget Project, May
U.S. General Accounting Office, Government-wide Analysis of the Growth in Unexpended27
Balances, GAO/AFMD-86-24BR, Jan. 1986, pp. 27, 30.
See Pat Towell, "'Midnight Surprise' Sparks Questions in Congress," Congressional28
Quarterly, June 1, 1985, p. 1066.
Real growth is a measure of the change over time (increase or decrease) in funding for a29
program after the effect of price changes (inflation) has been eliminated. Real growth can be
positive or negative; “negative real growth” is a decline in funding after inflation has been
eliminated. Nominal growth measures both program growth and the effect of price changes
over time without distinguishing between them.
Figure 2: National Defense Outlays, Current andThe importance of the
Constant FY1999 Dollars, FY1940-2003distinction between current
1,000 and constant dollars can be30
seen in Figure 2. The
800 figure shows national
defense outlays from
Current Year $Constant FY1999 $FY1940 through FY1998
(1) in current and (2) in31
400 Billions of Dollarsconstant FY1999 dollars.While defense spending has
200 almost always grown innominal terms from year to
year since World War II, the
0 194019501960197019801990real amount of spending has
Fiscal Yearfluctuated, with periods of
rapid real growth coming
during the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Carter-Reagan defense buildup of
the late 1970s and early 1980s.
A failure to distinguish between current and constant dollars, therefore, may be
misleading in analyzing budget trends. A focus on current rather than constant dollars
will either exaggerate the amount of growth or understate the extent of decline in
defense spending. For example, in current dollar terms, U.S. national defense budget
authority declined by 9 percent between FY1985 and FY1998. In real terms,
however, defense budget authority for the period declined by 36 percent.
A useful concept for measuring the direction of the defense budget is that of
average real growth or decline, which in effect smooths out all the “ups and downs”
in the defense budget over a given period of time to give an indication of a general
trend. The U.S. defense budget has fluctuated considerably over the past 25 years.
When the “ups and downs” are smoothed out, however, national defense budget
authority grew in real terms by about 5.3% percent per year on average from FY197532
to FY1985 and declined by about 3.4% percent per year from FY1985 to FY1998.
Sources for Figure 2: CRS calculations based on U.S. Office of Management and Budget,30
Historical Tables: Budget of the U.S. Government for Fiscal Year 1999, Feb. 1998;
Department of Defense Comptroller, National Defense Budget Estimates for FY1999, March
For purposes of measuring real growth in the defense budget the choice of “base year” is31
largely immaterial. The percentage change from one year to another will remain
approximately the same for any base year chosen. FY1999 dollars were chosen as the
constant dollar base to provide a measure of the size of the defense budget in currency
meaningful to the contemporary defense budget debate. FY1999 budget deflators were
obtained from the Department of Defense Comptroller.
To calculate the average annual real growth between two years X and Y, first calculate the32
size of the defense budget in constant dollars for years X and Y. Next, divide the defense
budget for the later year DB(Y) by the defense budget for the earlier year DB(X). Then take
the nth root of the result, where n = the number of years between X and Y (including Y but
Measuring the Impact of Defense Spending on the Economy
Figure 3: National Defense Outlays,Resources devoted to
Percentage of GDP, FY1947-2003*defense are not available for
14%FY1953: 14.2%competing public or private
uses and, in this sense,
12%constitute a cost to the
10%FY1968: 9.4%American economy. The
8%most common measure ofthe defense cost is defense
6%outlays as a percentage of
Percentage of GDPGross Domestic Product
2%FY1948: 3.5%FY2003: 2.8%(GDP). GDP represents thetotal value of goods and
0%194719521957196219671972197719821987199219972002services produced by
Fiscal Yearpeople, government, and
*FY1998-2003: Administration projectionsfirms in the United States,
whether the firms and
individuals involved are foreign or domestically owned. Figure 3 shows defense33
spending as a percentage of GDP from FY1947 through FY1998 and projected
not X) and subtract 1 from that result.
Similar to GDP is Gross National Product (GNP). GNP includes income earned by33
American firms and individuals abroad and excludes income earned by foreign firms and
individuals in the United States. Because GDP is generally considered to correspond more
closely to other indicators used in short-term economic analysis than GNP, the federal
government shifted its emphasis from GNP to GDP in December 1991. See Council of
Economic Advisors, Economic Report of the President, Washington, 1992, p. 246.
Sources for Figure 3: Office of Management and Budget, Historical Tables: Budget of the34
United States Government for Fiscal Year 1999, Feb. 1998 and Office of Management and
Budget, "Midsession Review of the Budget, FY1999," August 1998.
Figure 4: National Defense Outlays, Percentage ofAnother common
Federal and Total Public Expenditures, FY1945-2003measure of cost is
defense outlays as a
80%percentage of total
federal spending or of
60%total governmentspending (including
federal, state, and local).
40%Figure 4 shows defense
spending as a percentage
20%Percentage of Expendituresof total federal spending
% Federal Outlays% Public Expendituresand of total publicexpenditures from
0% 1945 1955 1965 1975 1985 1995
Fiscal YearFY1940 projected35
*FY1998-2003: Administration projections.through FY2003. By
this measure, defense
spending has steadily declined since the end of the Korean War, though the trend was
briefly interrupted by the Vietnam War and the build-up of the 1980s.
Figure 5: National Defense Outlays, Percentage ofMuch of the increase in
Total Discretionary Outlays, FY1962-2003total federal spending since
100%the end of the 1960s has
90%been in areas of the budget
80%such as Social Security,
70%Medicare, and Medicaid,
60%which are described as
50%"mandatory" programs (see
40%below for a further
30%discussion). As Figure 5
20%Percentage of Federal Outlaysshows, defense spending has
10%not declined nearly as
0%19621972198219922002rapidly as a share of so-
Fiscal Yearcalled "discretionary" federal
FY1998-2003: Administration projections.spending. This is the
amount controlled by annual
appropriations bills, which Congress must approve each year.
Two other measures of defense costs are also frequently cited. One is defense
research and development spending as a share of government or of total of
government plus private R&D expenditures. Another is defense-related employment
as a percentage of the federal, total government, or total national labor force. Data
on all of these measures are readily available from government sources, and are
regularly reported to Congress.
Source for Figure 4: Department of Defense Comptroller, National Defense Budget35
Estimates for FY1999, March 1998.
Chapter 2: Structure of the Defense Budget
The DOD budget is traditionally presented in three ways — (1) by
appropriations title, (2) by major force program, or (3) by component. Other ways
of breaking down the budget are also common and may be more useful for specific
analytical purposes. This chapter briefly describes the three formats generally used
in presenting defense funding and reviews some other useful ways of categorizing the
Defense Budget by Appropriations Title
The defense budget -- as enacted by Congress through the DOD and military
construction appropriations bills (with smaller amounts in other appropriations bills) --
is divided into appropriations titles. The appropriation structure of the
congressional defense budget has evolved over time, reflecting changing congressional
interests. Since FY1960, the congressional defense budget has included the following
major titles: 36
Military Personnel: includes pay and allowances (housing and other) for active
duty officers and enlisted personnel and for cadets at the Service academies,
contributions to military retirement funds, subsistence of enlisted personnel,
permanent change of station travel, bonuses, National Guard and Reserve paid
drill and initial training, and some other training and support costs.37
Operation and Maintenance (O&M): includes salaries, benefits, and retired
pay (DOD contribution) for most civilian DOD employees, flying hours, ship38
operations, training of land forces, individual training and exercises, real property
maintenance and minor construction projects, equipment maintenance and
system overhauls, refits and refurbishment, the purchase of fuel, repair parts,
supplies, minor items of repair equipment, and various personnel, base operating,
and administrative support activities.
Procurement: includes acquisition of weapons and components of weapons,
communication and support equipment, munitions, initial and replenishment
spares, modernization equipment, and kits to upgrade existing equipment.
In addition to these major titles, there are also minor titles which may vary from year to year.36
Recently, separate titles have addressed such things as defense conversion programs and
disarmament aid to the former Soviet Union.
Until FY1985 military retirement was paid out to retirees each year on a cash basis and was37
funded within the Military Personnel title. The FY1984 defense authorization act (P.L. 98-
94), however, established an accrual accounting system for military retirement beginning in
FY1985, whereby the Services are charged (in the military personnel title) for the future costs
of retirement for military personnel currently on active or reserve duty. The actual payment
of benefits to current retirees is made from a newly created Military Retirement Trust Fund
in budget function 600.
Some pay for civilians is also funded in the RDT&E and military construction titles.38
Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E): includes
development and testing of weapons and equipment, development of prototypes,
fabrication of technology-demonstration devices, and support of basic research
and exploratory development of technologies with potential military applications.
Military Construction: includes acquisition, construction, installation, and39
furnishing of temporary or permanent public works, military installations,
facilities, and real property of the armed forces, as well as major repair and
minor construction projects.
Family Housing: includes construction, improvements, operations,
maintenance, and leasing of military family housing.
Revolving and Management Funds: includes DOD stock funds, industrial
funds, management funds, and various trust funds. Since December 1996, the40
Pentagon has used four Working Capital Funds for this purpose — the Army
Working Capital Fund, the Navy Working Capital Fund, the Air Force Working
Capital Fund and Defense-Wide Working Capital Fund.41
Funding for military personnel, procurement, O&M, and RDT&E programs has
accounted for about 95 percent of the DOD budget in recent years. The other titles
listed represent only a small percentage of the total DOD budget, though, in absolute
terms, the dollars involved are sizable ($9.8 billion in FY1998), and these titles42
finance important defense activities. The allocation of funds among appropriations
titles has shifted substantially over time, reflecting trends in the overall defense budget
total and changing defense priorities.
Construction performed by the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) on civilian projects is39
excluded. ACE civilian projects are funded in the Energy and Water appropriations bill.
DOD revolving funds support self-sustaining activities in the Department of Defense that40
“sell” a product or service to DOD customers and then use the receipts from sales to pay
operating expenses and purchase new stock. The funds finance a continuing cycle of
operations without fiscal year limitations; hence the term "revolving fund". Examples are
stock funds and industrial funds. Stock funds provide such things as clothing, medical
supplies, fuel, construction supplies, ordnance repair parts, consumable aircraft and missile
parts, tank and automotive supplies, and general retail supplies. Industrial funds provide
services such as equipment overhauls and transportation services. Management funds were
established to simplify financing and accounting for operations supported by two or more
appropriations. Trust funds are used to carry out a business activity in accordance with a
trust agreement or statute and are credited with offsetting receipts.
Beginning in FY1992, the Pentagon combined five industrial funds, four stock funds, and41
several appropriated fund support activities, including the Defense Finance and Accounting
Service and the Defense Commissary Agency into a single revolving fund. This fund was
called Defense Business Operations Fund (DBOF), and the DOD comptroller centrally
managed the cash balance of this single fund. In December 1996, DBOF was abolished and
replaced with four Working Capital Funds in order to devolve responsibility for cash balances
to each DOD component.
Based on the Office of Management and Budget, Historical Tables: Budget of the United42
States Government for Fiscal Year 1999, Feb. 1998.
Appropriations titles are further subdivided into appropriations accounts — a
complete list of accounts for the FY1999 DOD budget can be found in Appendix B.
(The number and denotation of the appropriations accounts in the DOD budget has
varied over time.) Appropriations accounts are further disaggregated into budget
activities, line-items, and program elements. For example, one of the 15 accounts43
in the FY1999 procurement title is “Aircraft Procurement, Navy.” This account is
divided into five budget activities (combat aircraft, trainer aircraft, modification of
aircraft, aircraft spares and repair parts, and aircraft support equipment and facilities),
which are in turn composed of line-items (e.g., the “F/A-18 aircraft,” which is
included under the budget activity “Combat Aircraft”).
The level of program detail in line-items varies with the appropriations title. For
the Procurement, RDT&E, and Military Construction accounts, the congressional
defense budget shows thousands of line-items for individual weapons and military
construction programs. There are far fewer line-items in the Military Personnel
accounts and, until recently, in the O&M accounts. Beginning with the FY1993
budget, Congress has reported action on O&M accounts in much finer detail than in
the past. The term "program element" is used in the congressional defense budget
structure only to refer to programs funded in the RDT&E title — it is equivalent to
"line items" in other parts of the budget.
Defense Budget by Major Force Program
DOD organizes the defense budget for its own force programming and budgeting
purposes into a format different from that used by Congress. The basic building
blocks of the DOD budget are “program elements,” which, in this context, are
collections of weapons, manpower, and support equipment. “F/A-18 squadrons,” for
example, constitutes a program element, which is defined as follows:
Technically, “line item” refers to programs in the procurement title only. The RDT&E title43
is composed of “program elements” and the O&M title is composed of “programs.” In
common parlance, the basic building blocks of all the appropriations titles are generally
referred to as line items. Line items are roughly equivalent to the formal term "Program,
Project or Activity (PPA)" as defined in the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control
Act of 1985. Conference reports on the annual defense appropriations bills regularly include
the following statement:
DEFINITION OF PROGRAM, PROJECT, AND ACTIVITY
The conferees agree that for the purposes of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit
Control Act of 1985 (Public Law 99177) as amended by the Balanced Budget and
Emergency Deficit Control Reaffirmation Act of 1987 (Public Law 100-119) and by the
Budget Enforcement Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-508), the term program, project, and
activity for appropriations contained in this Act shall be defined as the most specific
level of budget items identified in the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 1999,
the accompanying House and Senate Committee reports, the conference report and
accompanying joint explanatory statement of the managers of the Committee of
Conference, the related classified annexes and reports, and the P-1 and R-1 budget
justification documents as subsequently modified by Congressional action. (Conference
Report on the FY1999 Defense Appropriations Act, H.Rept. 105-746, p. 69).
peculiar and support equipment, necessary facilities and the associated costs
specifically identified and measurable to the following: Strike Fighter
Squadrons. Planned follow-on for A-7 and F-4 Squadrons. Proposed missions
are close tactical air support, deep strike and interdiction missions, air
superiority, fleet air defense, air-to-ground weapons delivery and strike escort.
Excludes Aircraft Readiness Squadrons — (see appropriate element in this
In the congressional budget format, the resources composing F/A-18 squadrons
would be funded in separate appropriations titles, including Military Personnel,
Procurement, O&M, RDT&E, and Military Construction. In presenting its budget
request to Congress, DOD recasts its data into appropriations categories.
Program elements in the internal Department of Defense budget are grouped into
eleven Major Force Programs (MFPs), as follows:45
Program 1: Strategic Forces. Strategic forces are those organizations and
associated weapon systems whose force missions encompass intercontinental or
transoceanic inter-theater responsibilities. Program 1 is further subdivided into
strategic offensive forces and strategic defensive forces, including operational
management headquarters, logistics, and support organizations identifiable and
associated with these major subdivisions.46
Program 2: General Purpose Forces. General purpose forces are those
organizations and associated weapon systems whose force mission
responsibilities are, at a given point in time, limited to one theater of operation.
Program 2 consists of force-oriented program elements, including the command
organizations associated with these forces, the logistic organizations organic to
these forces, and the related support units that are deployed or deployable as
constituent parts of military forces and field organizations. Also included are
other programs, such as JCS-directed and coordinated exercises, Coast Guard
ship support program, war reserve material, ammunition, and equipment.
Program 3: Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Space
(C3, I & Space). Consists of intelligence, security, communications and
functions, such as mapping, charting, and geodesy activities, weather service,
oceanography, special activities, nuclear weapons operations, space boosters,
satellite control and aerial targets. Intelligence and communications functions
that are specifically identifiable to a mission in the other major programs are
included within the appropriate program.
Department of Defense Comptroller, FYDP Program Structure (DOD 7045.7-H), January44
Ibid. Chapter 3, pp. 6-8.45
MFP 1 includes funds for acquiring strategic nuclear delivery systems but not funds for46
acquiring nuclear warheads — warhead acquisition is funded through the Department of
Energy, not the Department of Defense.
Program 4: Mobility Forces. Consists of program elements for airlift, sealift,
traffic management, and water terminal activities, both direct-funded and
through the Working Capital Funds, including command, logistics, and support
units organic to these organizations.
Program 5: Guard and Reserve Forces. The majority of Program 5 resources
consist of Guard and Reserve training units in support of strategic offensive and
defensive forces and general purpose forces. In addition, there are units in
support of intelligence and communication; space; airlift and sealift; research and
development; central supply and maintenance; training, medical, and general
personnel activities; administration; and support of other nations.
Program 6: Research and Development. Consists of all research and
development programs and activities that have not yet been approved for
operational use, and includes: (a) basic and applied research tasks and projects
of potential military application in the physical, mathematical, environmental,
engineering, biomedical, and behavioral sciences; and (b) development, test, and
evaluation of new weapons systems equipment and related programs.
Program 7: Central Supply and Maintenance. Consists of resources related
to supply, maintenance, and service activities, both direct-funded and funded
through the Working Capital Funds, such as first and second destination
transportation, overseas port units, industrial preparedness, commissaries, and
logistics and maintenance support, depot maintenance and supply management.
These functions or activities provide benefits and support for overall DOD
Program 8: Training, Medical, and Other General Personnel Activities.
Consists of resources related to training and education, personnel procurement
services, health care, permanent change of station travel, transients, family
housing, and other support activities associated with personnel. Excluded from
this program is training specifically related to and identified with another major
organic program. Housing subsistence, health care, recreation, and similar costs
and resources that are organic to a program element, such as base operations in
other major programs, are also excluded from this program. Program 8
functions and activities, which are mainly centrally managed, provide benefits
and support necessary for the fulfillment of DOD programs.
Program 9: Administration and Associated Activities: Consists of resources
for the administrative support of departmental and major administrative
headquarters, field commands, and administration and associated activities not
accounted for elsewhere. Included are activities such as construction planning
and design, public affairs, contingencies, claims, and criminal investigations.
Program 10: Support of Other Nations. Consists of resources in support of
international activities, including support to the Military Assistance Program
(MAP), foreign military sales, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
(NATO) infrastructure and humanitarian assistance.
Program 11: Special Operations Forces. Consists of force-oriented special
operations forces (Active, Guard and Reserve), including the command
organizations and support units directly related to these forces.
Table 2 shows the defense budget by MFP for FY1996-99.
Table 2. Department of Defense Budget by Major Force Program
(total obligational authority in millions of current dollars)
Actual Actual Estimate Request
MFP FY1996 FY1997 FY1998 FY1999
1. Strategic Forces7,4566,141 6,7186,708
2. Gen’l Purp. Forces88,23488,98191,18992,748
3. C3, I & Space 30,08329,97030,35731,523
4. Mobility Forces10,31410,55610,30410,944
5. Guard & Reserve21,08520,93420,94520,792
6. Research & Devel.25,87426,02626,25825,103
7. Cent. Sup. & Maint.16,72816,39716,23416,119
8. Train., Med. & Gen’l 44,18143,71343,16642,992
9. Admin. & Assoc. Act.6,8797,3317,2797,330
10. Sup’t Other Nations890999900974
11. Special Ops Forces3,1973,1793,4113,374
Source: U.S. Department of Defense, National Defense Budget Estimates for FY1999, March 1998,
Notes: Figures for the year preceding the request (FY 1998) represent an estimate and include
Administration-proposed supplemental appropriations and rescissions. Totals may not add due to
While this breakdown of the budget is useful to DOD in managing its activities,
it must be used carefully in analyzing defense programs. It is sometimes assumed, for
example, that Program 1 is roughly equivalent to nuclear forces. In fact, funding to
develop strategic nuclear weapon systems is included in Program 6, funding for
theater nuclear weapons falls into Program 2, and funding for nuclear warheads is not
in the DOD budget at all, but, instead, is funded through the Department of Energy.
Moreover, even within DOD there have been questions about the value of this
means of categorizing costs. Support programs (Programs 7, 8, & 9), are separated
from force activities (Programs 1, 2, 4, & 5). Some argue that these costs should be
connected to the actual forces. This has happened to some degree in recent years as
an increasing number of functions in Central Supply (Program 7), especially, have
been financed indirectly through service operation and maintenance budget accounts
that are reflected in force activities (Programs 1, 2, 4, & 5).
Defense Budget by Component
The third traditional method of aggregating defense funding is by component of
the Department of Defense. The five major components are: (1) Army, (2) Navy (of
which the Marine Corps is a part), (3) Air Force, and (4) Defense-Wide. Table 347
shows the defense budget by component for FY1995-98.
Table 3. Department of Defense Budget by Component
(budget authority in millions of current dollars)
Actual Actual Estimate Request
Component FY1996 FY1997 FY1998 FY1999
Army 64,505 64,418 60,534 63,815
Defense-Wide 36,955 40,810 39,043 35,448
Source: U.S. Department of Defense, National Defense Budget Estimates for FY1999, March
1998, p. 111.
Notes: Figures for the year preceding the request (FY 1998) represent an estimate and include
Administration-proposed supplemental appropriations and rescissions. Totals may not add due to
The Defense-Wide component encompasses programs that support the entire Pentagon. It47
is comprised of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Unified Commands, Defense
Agencies, and Field Activities. As of October 1, 1998, there are 14 Defense Agencies and 7
Field Activities. The Defense Agencies include the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization,
the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Defense Commissary Agency, the
Defense Contract Audit Agency, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the Defense
Information System Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Defense Legal Services
Agency, the Defense Logistics Agency, the Defense Security Assistance Agency, the Defense
Security Service, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the National Imagery and Mapping
Agency, the National Security Agency. The Field Agencies include the Armed Forces
Information Service, the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel office, the Defense
Civilian Personnel Management Service, the DOD Education Activity, TRICARE
Management Activity, the Office of Economic Adjustment, and Washington Headquarters
Alternative Ways of Analyzing the Defense Budget
To some observers, the three traditional ways of organizing the DOD budget
discussed above are of limited utility because they focus on artificial accounting inputs
instead of mission outputs. Some critics have proposed reorganizing DOD budget
submissions along so-called “mission” lines in order to more clearly reflect what
military capabilities the United States is buying. Missions might include, for48
example, strategic offense, sea control, or air superiority. Proponents say that such
a reorganization would help coordinate DOD management and budgeting processes
and aid in setting priorities.
An alternative analysis of the defense budget utilized frequently by some analysts
shows spending in three other categories: manpower, readiness, and modernization.
Manpower. So-called "defense manpower" program costs are frequently
contrasted with costs for major weapon systems and other procurement items to give
some indication of relative spending for people versus hardware in the armed forces.
The DOD appropriations title for military personnel, however, covers only the cost
of pay and benefits for uniformed military personnel. Funding for DOD civilian
personnel is provided mostly in the operation and maintenance account, with smaller
amounts provided in the RDT&E and military construction accounts. DOD regularly
provides a breakdown of the DOD budget that shows pay and benefits for civilian as
well as uniformed personnel -- in FY1998, 44 percent of DOD budget authority was
for pay and benefits of military and civilian employees. 49
Even this breakdown of the budget does not, however, capture all the DOD
personnel-related costs. A broader definition of DOD "manpower" costs might
include pay and benefits plus family housing, individual training, medical support,
recruiting and examining, overseas dependent education, a portion of base operating
support costs, and various other personnel support programs. 50
Readiness and Modernization. A major debate in recent years has revolved
around the balance of funding between readiness and modernization. As defined by
DOD, readiness is "the collective capability of the elements of the force to deliver
outputs for which they were designed." Modernization is the "technical sophistication
of all the elements of the force." Readiness and modernization are two of four pillars51
of military capability commonly defined by DOD.
U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Armed Services Staff Report Defense Organization:48
The Need for Change, S. Rept. 99-86, October 16, 1985, pp. 596-98.
Department of Defense Comptroller, National Defense Budget Estimates for FY1999,49
March 1998, p. 123.
Department of Defense, Manpower Requirements Report FY1998, September 1997.50
Section IX -- Cost of Manpower, p. 6.
The other two pillars are force structure (the numbers, size, and composition of the units that51
comprise our defense forces) and force sustainability (the "staying power" of the force during
There are no categories in the three traditional DOD budget formats, however,
called "readiness" and "modernization." Analysts frequently associate readiness with
the O&M appropriations title and modernization with the procurement and R&D
titles. This approach is imprecise, however. Many readiness-related items are funded
in the procurement title (e.g., replenishment spares and ammunition for training).
More importantly, much of O&M funding is for activities only indirectly related to
readiness, including base operations, environmental cleanup, financial management
and other overhead activities, and many other support functions.
Even with only rough measures available, however, certain trends stand out. A
general trend is that the "modernization" part of the budget tends to vary much more
than the "readiness"-related part of the budget. When total defense budgets are
growing, modernization funding typically rises faster. When total defense budgets are
declining, modernization funding plummets. Readiness-related budget accounts, in
contrast, have grown at a fairly steady, modest pace relative to the size of the force,
with variations due to increases or cuts in the number of troops.
Figure 6: Department of Defense This trend has been
Budget Authority by Title, FY1985-2003especially striking in recent
years — total budget
140 authority for national
120 defense declined by 36% in
real terms between peak of
100 Operation & Maintenancethe Reagan buildup in
80 Military PersonnelFY1985 and FY1998, while
60 ProcurementRDT&Edeclined by 67% and O&M
40 by just 17% over the same
Constant FY1999 $ in Billionsperiod. Figure 6 illustrates
20 Otherthe trend. This has kindled
0 1985199019952000an ongoing dispute about
Fiscal Yearthe adequacy of the Clinton
Note: FY1998-2003, Administration projectionAdministration's defensebudget plans. Critics argue
that tight budgets in the 1990s have led the Administration to cut weapons
modernization too deeply to protect near-term readiness. Low rates of
modernization, they contend, will jeopardize the "future readiness" of the force, which
depends on modern weaponry. Critics also believe that the industrial base needed to
produce new weapons in the future is languishing.
For their part, Administration officials acknowledge that procurement levels have
been extremely low in recent years. But, they argue, a "procurement holiday" was
acceptable, first, because the new weapons bought during the buildup of the 1980s
have only recently been delivered, so the current force is very modern and, second,
because the drawdown in the size of the force led to the retirement of older equipment
combat operations, often measured in number of days). In popular parlance, sustainability
is often included as a part of readiness.
so that the average age of weapons in the field has declined. Weapons procurement
funding must now begin to turn up, they say, and, since the fall of 1995, the Joint
Chiefs of Staff have urged that a procurement funding level of $60 billion be achieved
by the end of the decade.
The dispute over the adequacy of long-term modernization funding has been
accompanied by a debate about the adequacy of readiness-related funding as well.
Even with readiness-related funding apparently being protected, reports of shortfalls
in training, spare parts, equipment repairs, and real property maintenance have grown
over time. Meanwhile, the Department of Defense had projected that O&M funding
growth would level off in the future because of several efficiency measures, including
base closures that were approved in earlier years and ongoing efforts to reduce costs.
These expectations have proven increasingly difficult to sustain, and, it now appears
that the Department of Defense, with White House support, will propose substantial
increases in planned budgets over the next few years in an effort to protect both
readiness and modernization.
Chapter 3: The Defense Budget Process
The three major stages of the defense budget process are (1) formulation of the
defense budget proposal by the executive branch; (2) review and approval of the
budget by Congress; and (3) budget execution. As Figure 7 shows, the two key52
benchmarks in the process dividing the three stages are (1) submission of the defense
budget to Congress by the President — which, under current law, must take place by
the first Monday in February — and (2) the beginning of the new fiscal year on5354
Figure 7: Time Line of Defense Budget Process*
President SubmitsBeginning of
Defense BudgetFiscal Year
Executive Preparation &CongressionalBudget Execution
Submission (Planning,Defense BudgetObligation and Expenditure
Programming & BudgetingProcessof Funds
System in DOD)
Aug.Jan.Feb.Oct. 1 & continuing
FY MinusFY Minus
26 Mos.8 Months
For the first year of the biennial budget cycle. An abbreviated process is used for the*
executive preparation phase within DOD for the second year of each cycle
While many aspects of the budget process apply equally to all programs in the
national defense budget function, this section discusses the defense budget process as
it relates to the DOD budget only. The description provided here is based on the
formal process as defined in DOD directives and legislation. Practice sometimes
deviates from the formal procedure. 55
A fourth stage in the budget process — review and audit — is sometimes identified, but is52
not discussed in this primer.
As specified in the Budget Enforcement Act (BEA) of 1990, as amended. The 198553
Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act (“Gramm-Rudman-Hollings” or GRH)
required that the President submit a budget to Congress on the first Monday after January 3,
but this deadline was seldom met. The BEA permits submission of the budget as late as the
first Monday in February, but the conference report accompanying the legislation urges earlier
In practice, Congress very often doesn't complete the budget process until after the end of54
the current fiscal year. Temporary funding is generally provided in a continuing resolution.
(See discussion below.)
For a general description of the federal budget process, see Robert Keith and Allen Schick,55
Manual on the Federal Budget Process, CRS Report 98-720.
Since 1961, the formal process that the Department of Defense has followed in
preparing its budget has been known as the Planning, Programming, and
Budgeting System (PPBS). The whole PPBS process, from the beginning of56
planning to commencement of the budget year, takes about 26 months — from the
start of the planning phase to the time the budget request is submitted to Congress in
February is about 18 months, while the budget year begins some 8 months later on
October 1 (see Figure 8).57
Figure 8. Department of Defense PPBS Timeline
(beginning 26 months before Fiscal Year)
Planning Programming Budgeting
DatesAugust to JanuaryFebruary to JulyAugust to December
ActionInputs from OfficeProgram ObjectiveReview of POMs
of the Secretary ofMemoranda (POMs)and PDMs;
Defense (OSD),developed to meetrestructuring of
Services, and Jointrequirements ofprogram elements
Chiefs of Staff (JCS)DPGinto appropriations
ActorOffice of theDefense ResourceDOD Comptroller
Undersecretary ofPlanning Boardand OMB
Defense for Policy
OutcomeDefense PlanningProgram DecisionBudget (and
Guidance (DPG)Memoranda (PDMs)justification
*For the first year of the biennial budget cycle. An abbreviated process is used for the executive
preparation phase within DOD for second year of each cycle.
Until recently, this process was followed for each annual budget, which meant
that parts of the process for one year overlapped with the process for the following
year. In 1985, however, the Congress mandated a change to a biennial budget cycle
beginning with preparation of the FY1988-89 budget — i.e., the budget that began
to be prepared in mid-1986 and that was submitted to Congress in January 1987.58
As a result, DOD now goes through the whole PPBS process only every other year.
An amended budget is submitted for the second year of each cycle, but this amended
The PPBS process was introduced in 1961 by then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.56
For more detailed information on the PPBS system, see the website:57
The change was mandated by Congress in 1985 in Section 1405 of the FY1986 National58
Defense authorization Act, P.L. 99-145.
budget is prepared through a more limited process that generally follows the
procedures used in the "budgeting" part of the full PPBS exercise.
The PPBS process is designed not only to prepare a budget for submission to
Congress but also as the principal mechanism through which the Department of
Defense prepares its own, internal, long-term financial plan. Indeed, the system
produces not only an annual or biennial budget for congressional consideration, but
also a long-term defense plan for the following four years. When the budget
submission to Congress covered only one year, PPBS produced a Five-Year Defense
Plan, or FYDP (pronounced “Fiddip”). Now, with a two-year budget submitted to
Congress, the long-term plan extends over a six-year period and is known as the
Future Years Defense Plan (i.e., still the FYDP). 59
As its name implies, the PPBS process can be divided into the three distinct
phases of (1) planning, (2) programming, and (3) budgeting, each of which produces
a specific product.
Planning. The planning phase of the PPBS process is designed to integrate
assessments of potential military threats facing the country, overall national strategy
and defense policy, ongoing defense plans and programs, and projected financial
resources into an overall statement of policy. The formal outcome of the process is
the Defense Planning Guidance (DPG), which provides the basic rationale for DOD
programs and budgets in the next FYDP. The planning phase formally begins in
August, a year-and-a-half before the next biennial budget is scheduled to be submitted
to Congress. Even before this time, civilian officials in the Office of the Secretary of
Defense (OSD) as well as military officials in each of the and, especially, on the Joint
Staff (i.e., operating under the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), are reviewing
and commenting on the earlier DPG. The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) also issue their
own policy overview, called the Joint Strategic Planning Document (JSPD), which
provides formal JCS recommendations to the Secretary of Defense on the DPG. The
DPG, which is prepared in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy,
provides official guidance to the military services on the basic principles that they are
to follow in preparing their own long-term budget plans.
Programming. The programming phase of the PPBS process lasts from about
February through July of the year before the budget goes to Congress. In this phase,
each military service prepares a Program Objective Memorandum (POM), which
details the specific forces and programs that the service proposes over the FYDP
period to meet the military requirements identified in the DPG within the financial
limits that are mandated by the Secretary of Defense. Each service has its own
process for preparing its POM, and service procedures differ substantially from each
other. The service POMs are reviewed by the Defense Resource Planning Board
Section 1203 of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY1988 and FY1989 (P.L. 100-59
180) requires the Secretary of Defense to submit the FYDP to Congress by April 1 of each
year. Since the FYDP is a working financial plan, its evolution does not stop after it is
initially formulated. The FYDP is updated to reflect congressional changes in requested
programs and other major and minor, short- and long-term adjustments. The FYDP is usually
updated three times within each cycle.
(DRPB), a high-level group chaired by the Deputy Secretary of Defense and including
representatives from organizations within OSD and the Joint Chiefs. The POM
review process often involves vigorous back and forth debate, with key issues being
identified by DRPB subgroups, decided initially by the DRPB, appealed by the
services, and reviewed and decided again. Ultimately the DRPB makes final decisions
about service plans in the form of Program Decision Memoranda (PDMs) that are
officially approved and signed by the Secretary of Defense.
Budgeting. The budgeting phase of the PPBS process generally lasts from
about August through late December. Primary responsibility for the budgeting
process lies with the Office of the DOD Comptroller, which draws on other
organizations within OSD for support and which works closely with the White House
Office of Management and Budget (OMB). In part, the budget review is a fairly60
technical exercise in which earlier budget allocations made in terms of program
elements used in the FYDP and the POMs are restructured for submission to
Congress according to appropriations accounts. The budget review also involves
preparation and approval of justification material for submission to Congress with the
budget request and, in some cases, a project-by-project review to ensure that
programs are sufficiently well-justified to secure congressional support. As a result,
the budget review is inherently a policy-oriented process, and the services sometimes
complain that decisions presumably made during the POM process are revisited
during the budget review. The outcome of the budgeting phase is the final
preparation of the DOD budget request that is submitted through the White House
to the Congress.
Even after the defense budget is submitted to Congress, the executive branch can
revise its budget request. Major budget amendments are often submitted by61
incoming Administrations to modify budgets prepared by their predecessors. Minor
budget revisions in response to changing threat perceptions, international events, or
the domestic political and economic situation, may be submitted either formally or
informally. Budget revisions can complicate the process of tracking congressional
action on the budget because House and Senate committees reviewing the President’s
proposals may actually be considering different requests.
In fact, OMB officials are involved in the PPBS process throughout — OMB staff work60
directly at the Pentagon and participate in the POM review process as well as in the budget
review. The defense budget is unique in the extent to which OMB is directly involved
throughout the budgeting process.
When it came into office in 1989, the Bush Administration proposed a budget amendment61
revising the Reagan budget request for FY1990. It also submitted minor (though formal)
budget amendments for FY1991 and FY1992. When it was leaving office, the Bush
Administration did not submit a budget to Congress, so the Clinton Administration simply
submitted its own request. The Clinton Administration has frequently submitted minor
defense budget amendments, such as an amendment to the FY1999 request asking Congress
to provide emergency funding for operations in Bosnia. Formal budget amendments are
printed as House documents.
Congressional Defense Budget Process
The Congressional Budget Act (CBA) of 1974 (P.L. 94-344), as amended,62
establishes the timetable for congressional action on the federal budget. As currently63
practiced, the congressional budget process stems from the CBA of 1974. The
authorization and appropriations process stems from House and Senate rules. These
different processes are linked together in various ways.
Congressional action on the defense budget is a three-step process. Step 1 is64
passage of the Concurrent Budget Resolution (CBR), which is designed to provide
an overview of the entire federal budget, creating a framework for consideration of
subsequent revenue and spending measures. Step 2 is the defense authorization
process, which establishes the statutory authority for defense programs. Step 3 is the
appropriations process, which creates the budget authority to fund defense programs.
Table 5 provides a timetable of the congressional budget process. The actual65
sequence of events in Congress rarely adheres to the timetable prescribed by the
Congressional Budget Act, but the timetable serves as a guideline and may, to some66
extent, exert pressure on Congress to act.
The CBA of 1974 has been amended by these five laws, among others:62
which is known as the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings (GRH) Act;
3. the Budget Enforcement Act (BEA) of 1990, which was part of the Omnibus Budget
Reconciliation Act (OBRA) of that year (P.L. 101-508);
4. the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) of 1993 (P.L. 103-66); and
5. the Budget Enforcement Act of 1997, which was part of the Balanced Budget Act of
The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 (P.L. 94-344) established the timetable for the63
congressional budget process; the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 established the
executive budget process; and the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of
There is a fourth step in GRH Act called sequestration, meaning a process that withholds64
or cancels already appropriated funds. An elaborate sequestration procedure comes into play
if the spending caps and pay-as-you-go requirements (governing mandatory spending and
revenues) are not met through the budget process. Funds are then sequestered through a
formula set out in the law. Sequestration procedures have not been invoked since 1990, due
to changes in congressional budget practices.
See Appendix D for the actual timetable of congressional action on the FY1999 budget.65
See James V. Saturno, The Appropriations Process and the Congressional Budget Act66
(CBA), CRS Report 97-947, for details on the timing of appropriations consideration and the
Table 5: Congressional Defense Budget Process
By the first Monday in FebruaryPresident submits defense budget to Congress
Budget, Senate Armed Services & House
National Security, and Appropriations
Committees and relevant Sub-Committees
commence hearings on the defense budget
Six weeks after budget submissionSenate Armed Services & House National
Security and Appropriations Committees
submit “views and estimates” on the defense
budget level to Budget Committee
Apr. 1Senate Budget Committee reports CBR
Apr. 15Congress completes action on the CBR
setting levels of budget authority and outlays
for the national defense budget function
No Formal DeadlineCongress approves defense authorization act
June 10House Appropriations Committee reports last
annual appropriations act
June 30House completes action on annual
Oct. 1Beginning of new fiscal year. Funding
provided either in regular appropriations acts
or continuing resolutions
The congressional committees responsible for the defense budget are the Budget
Committees, the Appropriations Committees, and the defense authorizing
committees — the House National Security Committee and the Senate Armed
Services Committee. As Table 6 shows, the defense budget is voted on a minimum
of 12 times on the floor, and 10 times in committee over the course of the annual
congressional defense budget process. The following discussion reviews the budget67
resolution, authorization, and appropriations processes in sequence. It also reviews
related matters, such as the relationship between authorization and appropriations.
A form labeled “Legislative History of the Defense Budget” is printed on the last page of this67
report to help the reader track the defense budget through the major stages of the
congressional budget process.
Table 6. Milestone Votes on the Defense Budget
(major stages of congressional action at which votes occur)
Action Committee Floor Committee Floor
Conference Report ApprovalXX
National Security Committees
Full Committee MarkupXX
Conference Report ApprovalXX
Defense Subcommittee MarkupXX
Full Committee MarkupXX
Conference Report ApprovalXX
Notes: Represents the minimum number of votes likely to occur. Does not include possible
votes on floor and committee amendments.
Concurrent Budget Resolution. The first formal defense budget action in each
legislative year is consideration of the Concurrent Budget Resolution (CBR). The68
Congressional Budget Act of 1974 mandated the consideration of a budget resolution
as a means for Congress to review overall national budget priorities. The budget
resolution allows Congress to review funding for particular programs in the context
of the entire federal budget, instead of dealing with each budget activity in isolation.
There has, however, been a great deal of controversy about how program-specific
Congress should be at this stage of the budget process. Under the terms of the 1974
Budget Act, as amended, the budget resolution establishes revenue floors and sets
ceilings on total budget authority and outlays. The concurrent budget resolution also
allocates spending among functions, including the national defense budget function
(i.e. the 050 function). These functional allocations are not binding on subsequent69
appropriations however, since the means of enforcing budget ceilings and revenue
floors allow considerable flexibility to revise functional allocations in the subsequent
A concurrent resolution must pass both houses of Congress but is not submitted to the68
For more details, see James V. Saturno, The Appropriations Process and the Congressional69
Budget Act, CRS Report 97-947.
course of the budget process. The Concurrent Budget Resolution also sets separate
targets for spending within two broad categories of expenditures — discretionary and
mandatory. Discretionary funds must be appropriated each year. Mandatory (also70
known as direct) spending, in contrast, is established by standing law for programs
like Medicare and Social Security. The amount spent for such programs, therefore,
can be adjusted only if Congress amends the underlying statutes.
Consistent with ceilings on total budget authority and outlays, the concurrent
budget resolution allocates funds to the appropriations committees and may include
so-called "reconciliation" instructions to congressional authorizing committees to
achieve specified amounts of changes in standing laws governing so-called direct or
mandatory accounts. These instructions may include directions to the defense
authorizing committees to make adjustments in total amounts of money for military
retirement benefits, which are a form of direct spending.
Action on the Concurrent Budget Resolution is formally governed by a timetable
established by the Congressional Budget Act as amended. Within six weeks after
submission of the President’s budget proposal, the House and Senate defense
authorizing and appropriations committees are required to submit their “views and
estimates” on the size of the defense budget to the two budget committees. These
"views and estimates" letters often make a case for an increase in defense spending,
usually with little effect on the process, and may also call attention to particular issues,
such as the balance between budget authority and outlays under Administration plans
as reestimated the Congressional Budget Office (see below). The Senate Budget
Committee is to report its version of the Budget Resolution by April 1. Congress is
to complete action on the Budget Resolution by April 15. In practice, these
timetables often slip. Indeed, in 1998, Congress did not pass a Congressional Budget
Resolution at all — instead, action on authorization and appropriations bills for
FY1999 proceeded on the basis of funding targets established by the long-term budget
agreement reached in 1997.71
The CBA of 1974 provides for both substantive and procedural points of order
to block violations of budget resolution policies and congressional budget procedures.
For example, total discretionary amounts are binding only for the Senate, where bills
or amendments that would lead to a violation of the ceilings are subject to a point of
order. There is no binding ceiling on mandatory spending in the CBR, however.72
“The Budget Enforcement Act (BEA) divides spending into two types — discretionary70
appropriations and direct spending. Discretionary spending is controlled through annual
appropriations acts. ...Direct spending is more commonly called mandatory spending.
Mandatory spending is controlled by permanent laws.” (Office of Management and Budget,
The Budget System and Concepts: Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year
In acting on FY1999 appropriations bills, the Senate approved resolutions (S.Res. 209 on71
April 2, 1998 and S.Res. 312 on October 21, 1998) which provided a formal allocation of
funds to the Appropriations Committee in lieu of the concurrent budget resolution. These
resolutions allowed action on appropriations bills under Senate rules.
For more information about budget enforcement procedures and points of order, see Robert72
It is important to note that the annual budget resolution simply establishes overall
targets for budget authority and outlays for the national defense function (050) — the
resolution does not specify how these funds should be allocated among specific
defense programs. The House and Senate Budget Committees sometimes include
language in their reports on the budget resolution explaining the assumptions
underlying recommended functional funding levels, but these recommendations have
no binding effect. Actual decisions on defense funding priorities, therefore, are made
only in the defense authorization and appropriations bills. Moreover, even the total
level of defense spending is not firmly established by the budget resolution.
Mechanisms for enforcing budget targets in the budget resolution allow considerable
flexibility to the appropriations committees in allocating total discretionary spending
(see the discussion of the appropriations process, below, for an explanation of this
Though the annual budget resolution does not do so, in recent years Congress
has sometimes established more rigid limits on defense discretionary spending as part
of legislation implementing long-term White House-congressional budget agreements.
The Budget Enforcement Act of 1990 established enforceable caps on defense
discretionary spending (and on other categories of discretionary expenditures) in
FY1991, FY1992, and FY1993, and set a cap on total discretionary spending through
FY1995. These caps were enforced through automatic across-the-board reductions
in spending known as sequestration. The caps on total discretionary spending, but not
the separate caps on defense expenditures, were extended through FY1998 by the
Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1995. The Budget Enforcement Act of 1997
further extended caps on total discretionary spending through FY2002 and reimposed
separate caps on defense discretionary expenditures in FY1998 and FY1999. Table73
the BEA of 1997 as estimated at the time the Act was approved. Both the CBR
levels and discretionary spending limits are adjustable for various factors, such as
Keith, Manual on the Federal Budget Process, CRS Report 98-720, esp. page 78.
For a more detailed discussion of the most recent amendment to the Congressional Budget73
Act - BEA of 1997, see Robert Keith, Budget Enforcement Act of 1997: Summary and
Legislative History, CRS Report 97-931.
For more information on discretionary spending limits, see: James V. Saturno, The74
Appropriations Process and the Congressional Budget Act, CRS Report 97-947. The
Budget Enforcement Act of 1990 and subsequent legislation also established mechanisms for
controlling mandatory spending and revenues. Changes in tax revenues and in mandatory
spending programs are required to balance each other in such a way that there is no net
increase in total federal spending — these mechanisms are know as the “Pay-As-You-Go” or
Discretionary spending limits can change over time, in accordance with the parameters75
established in Section 251(b) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act, as
amended by Section 10203(a) of the Budget Enforcement Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-33). Under
the 1997 changes, discretionary spending limits apply separately to defense and nondefense
spending for FY1998-1999 and to violent crime reduction spending for FY1998-2000; for the
Table 7. Initial Discretionary Spending Limits in the
Budget Enforcement Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-33)
(budget authority and outlays)
FiscalDefense SpendingNondefenseTotal DiscretionaryViolent Crime
Year Spending Spending Reduction
Source: James V. Saturno, The Appropriations Process and the Congressional Budget Act, CRS
Report 97-947, August 5, 1997.
Authorization Process. The next phase in the congressional defense budget
process is passage of authorizing legislation, a process which long predates the76
enactment of the 1974 Budget Act. Authorization laws have two basic purposes.
First, they establish, continue, or modify programs. Second, they are a prerequisite
under House and Senate rules (and sometimes under statute) for the Congress to
appropriate funds for programs. Authorization acts define the scope of programs77
and authorize funding levels for them, providing either a specific amount or “such
funds as may be necessary” to implement the program. Authorization does not create
budget authority — this is done only by appropriations acts.
Established in 1946, the Senate Armed Services Committee and its House
counterpart, known as the House Armed Services Committee until 1995 and now as
the House National Security Committee, are responsible for reporting defense
authorization legislation to Congress. The breadth and detail of their work have
evolved considerably over the years. Until 1959, most authorizations were permanent
— with no time limit. The only programs authorized annually were manpower end-
remaining fiscal years, all discretionary spending is merged into a single category. In 1998,
as part of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (P.L. 105-178), Congress added
separate categories for highway and mass transit spending. See Robert Keith, Introduction
to the Federal Budget Process, CRS Report 98-751 for more information on discretionary
Defense authorization bills were common in the early nineteenth century.76
Congressional Budget Office, Unauthorized Appropriations and Expiring Authorizations,77
January 15, 1998. p. 1-2.
strengths, military construction, and family housing programs. Since 1959, more and
more defense programs have been made subject to annual authorization, beginning
with procurement programs for aircraft, missiles, and naval vessels and continuing
through working-capital funds, for which annual authorizations were first required in
The defense authorizing committees’ work has become more extensive not only
in the number of programs requiring annual authorization, but also in the level of
detail in which programs are reviewed. While authorizations were originally quite
broad, the defense authorizing committees now authorize funding in their committee78
reports at the same line-item level as the Appropriations Committees.
The process by which annual defense authorization bills move through Congress
is the same as for any other regular piece of legislation. Defense authorization bills
are “marked up” in each committee, first by the relevant subcommittees and then by
the full committee. Following mark-up, each House begins floor action on its79
respective bill, with amendments offered and voted on followed by floor votes on
approving the amended bill. Differences between the House and Senate versions of
the bill are resolved in a conference committee, the results of which are returned to
each House for final floor votes, following which the approved measure is then sent
to the President for approval or veto.
There are no deadlines in law for action on authorization acts, and defense80
authorization bills are sometimes delayed past the beginning of a new fiscal year.
Authorization bills have been held up because of extended debates over the budget
resolution, disputes over major defense programs, veto threats, and, in the case of the
FY1996 bill, by a presidential veto.
For example, in the 1950s, standing law authorized “for the Air Force 24,000 serviceable78
aircraft or 225,000 airframe tons of serviceable aircraft, whichever the Secretary of the Air
Force considers appropriate.” At no time since FY1947, however, has the inventory of U.S.
Air Force aircraft exceeded 9,519 — the FY1955 level. (Jeffrey Record, Revising U.S.
Military Strategy (Washington: Pergamon Publishers, 1984), p. 103.)
A bill mark-up involves “going through the contents of a piece of legislation in committee79
or subcommittee, considering its provisions in large and small portions, acting on amendments
to provisions and proposed revisions to the language, inserting new sections and phraseology,
etc.” Congressional Quarterly, Congressional Almanac, Volume XXXIX, 1983, p. 7.
The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 originally established a May 15 deadline for the80
reporting of authorizing legislation, but this requirement was later repealed.
Table 8. Addition of Annual Authorization Requirements
Year LawPrograms Added
195986-149Procurement of aircraft, missiles, and naval
196287-436RDT&E for aircraft, missiles, and naval vessels
196388-174Procurement of tracked combat vehicles
196790-168Personnel strengths of each of the Selected
196991-121Procurement of other weapons
197091-441Procurement of torpedoes and related support
equipment; active duty personnel strengths of
each component of the Armed Forces
197392-436Average military training student loads of each
component of the Armed Forces
197594-106Military construction of ammunition facilities
197795-91National defense programs of the Department of
198096-342Operation and maintenance of DOD and all its
198398-94Working capital funds
Source: U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services. Defense Organization: The Need
for Change. S. Prt. 99-86, Oct. 16, 1985. Washington, 1985. p. 575.
The fact that biennial defense budgets have been required each year since 1987
has not fundamentally affected either the authorization or the appropriations process
in Congress. Authorizers bowed in the direction of biennial budgeting for three cycles
— in calendar year 1989, Congress approved a defense authorization bill that formally
covered the years FY1990-91; in 1991, Congress approved a bill for FY1992-93; and
in 1993, Congress approved a bill for FY1994-95. In each of these years, however,
Congress formally authorized funds only for relatively non-controversial programs in
the second year of the biennial cycle along with funds for all defense programs in the81
first year of the cycle. In the following year of each cycle, Congress then passed a
In 1991, for example, Congress passed a “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal81
Years 1992 and 1993" that authorized $213.3 billion for FY1992 and $165.9 billion for
FY1993. All of the FY1993 funding, however, was revisited in action on the “National
one-year authorization bill that approved all programs for that year. Since 1993,
authorizers have acted on only one year of the cycle. Appropriators have consistently
provided only one-year appropriations.
Appropriations Process. The third major step in the congressional defense
budget process is the appropriations process, which provides budget authority to
fund defense and other discretionary programs. Each year, Congress acts on 13
regular appropriations bills, each of which is initially approved by a separate
subcommittee of the appropriations committee in each House. The bulk of national
defense funding is provided in three appropriations bills (1) national security
(House)/defense (Senate), (2) military construction, and (3) energy and water
development (for Department of Energy defense-related activities). Minor amounts
of funding are provided in three other acts (see Table 9.)
The first formal step in the appropriations process is when the appropriations
committee in each House decides how much money will be allocated to each
subcommittee. While the Concurrent Budget Resolution establishes targets for the
national defense budget function, these targets are only advisory. Under the
Congressional Budget Act, the appropriations committees in each House have
flexibility to allocate total discretionary funding — for defense and non-defense
programs alike — as they see fit. If, for example, the annual budget resolution
recommends $270 billion in new discretionary budget authority for the national
defense budget function, and includes another $270 billion for various non-defense
programs, the total amount of discretionary funding, $540 billion, is available to the
appropriations committees to allocate among the subcommittees as appropriators
decide. Appropriators may decide to allocate only $265 billion to subcommittees for
defense programs, and $275 billion for domestic programs or vice versa.
Section 302 of the Congressional Budget Act establishes procedures through
which budget resolution ceilings on spending are implemented in the appropriations
process. Under Section 302(a) the Concurrent Budget Resolution makes
"allocations" of funds to committees. Section 302(b) requires that the appropriations
committee in each House report how funds under its jurisdiction are then subdivided
among the appropriations subcommittees. These suballocations of funds to the
appropriations subcommittees are therefore commonly referred to as the "302(b)82
allocations." A point of order may be raised in the House and Senate against any
appropriations bill or any amendment to an appropriations bill that would exceed the
amounts provided in the 302(b) allocation. It is important to note that the 302(b)
Defense Authorization Act for FY1993" which Congress approved in 1992.
The Budget Enforcement Act of 1990 temporarily created a slightly different process under82
a new Section 602, and the appropriations committee distributions were known as "602(b)
allocations" from FY1992 through FY1997. Following passage of the Budget Enforcement
Act of 1997, however, the FY1998 procedure reverted to the earlier "302(b)" process.
Table 9: FY1999 Appropriations for National Defense by Act and
Programs Contained in Each Act*
(current year dollars in millions)
Department of Defense Appropriations Act
Operation and Maintenance93,376
Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation36,561
Revolving & Mgt Funds1,521
Total DOD Appropriations250,907
Military Construction Appropriations Act
Total Military Construction Appropriations8,450
DOD Offsetting Receipts (Net) & Other(2,020)
TOTAL - Department of Defense, Military 051257,337
053 - Energy & Water Development Appropriations
Environmental Restoration & Waste Management4,310
Defense Facilities Closure Projects1,038
Other Defense Activities1,697
Defense Waste Disposal189
Nuclear Facilities Safety Board17
Remedial Action Program140
TOTAL - Department of Energy Defense-Related 05312,019
054 - HUD - Independent Agencies Appropriations
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)44
US Antarctic Logistics Support Act (NSF)63
Selective Service System24
054 - Department of Defense Appropriations Act
Community Management Staff102
CIA Retirement & Disability Fund202
Coast Guard (Defense Related)329
054- Commerce-Justice-State Appropriations Act
Maritime Security Program90
FBI (Defense Related)292
TOTAL - Other Defense Related 0541,150
TOTAL - Atomic Energy/Other Defense Related 053/05413,169
TOTAL National Defense 050 (051/053/054)270,505
Source: Congressional Budget Office.
*Note: Does not include FY1999 supplemental appropriations in H.R. 4328 (P.L. 105-277).
allocations are adjusted frequently over the course of the appropriations process as
appropriations bills are acted on.
In the Senate, the Defense Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee and
the Military Construction Subcommittee and, in the House, the National Security
Subcommittee and the Military Construction Subcommittee have jurisdiction over
military programs administered by the Department of Defense. The Energy and
Water Development Subcommittee in each House chamber has jurisdiction over
Department of Energy defense activities. These subcommittees hold hearings to
review the President’s defense budget request and to mark up defense appropriations
legislation before full committee mark-up. Floor action and conference committees83
then proceed in the same manner as with the authorization acts.
Under the Congressional Budget Act (CBA), as amended, the House
Appropriations Committee is required to report all annual appropriations acts by
June 10 and the House must complete action on them by June 30. These deadlines
are rarely met. The CBA bars consideration of appropriations bills before the
concurrent budget resolution is adopted. Under an exception, however, the House
Appropriations Committee can proceed on May 15th. In the past, the Senate has
waived the requirement for a concurrent budget resolution to permit consideration of
individual appropriations bills. In acting on FY1999 appropriations bills, the Senate
met the requirement by approving measures (S.Res. 209 on April 2, 1998 and S.Res.
312 on October 21, 1998) which provided a formal allocation of funds to the
Appropriations Committee in lieu of the concurrent budget resolution. There is no
formal deadline for final congressional action on appropriations, though government
agencies must shut down non-essential operations if funding is not provided in some
form (either in regular appropriations bills or in one or more continuing resolutions)
by the beginning of the fiscal year on October 1.
Some particular characteristics of defense appropriations acts are worth noting.
First, the national defense budget function is made up almost entirely of programs that
require annual appropriations. The exceptions are a small amount of DOD trust funds84
that are funded through permanent appropriations. In the case of annual
appropriations, Congress must pass new appropriations acts every year to sustain
a program. Permanent appropriations, in contrast, are usually made in substantive
legislation and make funds available each year without new action by Congress.
Second, Congress does not formally specify in the language of the appropriations
acts themselves levels of funding for every item in the defense budget. Instead, for
the most part, defense appropriations acts appropriate a “lump sum” for all the
programs funded in a given appropriations account, although specific amounts may
be appropriated for individual programs of particular concern to Congress. The
Appropriation acts usually originate in the House, but because of delays in House action the83
Senate Appropriations Committee has occasionally proceeded to mark up its version of the
defense appropriations act before House passage of its version.
For example in FY1998, budget authority for DOD Trust Funds equaled $246 million.84
There are 16 small trusts, including funds such as: General Gift Funds for the Army, Navy
and Air Force.
FY1998 defense appropriations act (P.L. 105-56), for example, provides
$6,535,444,000 for Navy aircraft procurement without specifying how much is for the
F-18 aircraft or other particular weapons. Authorization acts approve funding at a
similar level of detail.
While the acts themselves do not specify funding by line item, committee reports
on the defense appropriations acts do specify levels of funding at the line item level.
Moreover, the military departments provide detailed budget information on programs
in “justification” material presented to Congress, and if appropriations reports do not
specifically change the request, Congress assumes that DOD will carry out the
programs as requested. In a strict legal sense nothing requires DOD to adhere either
to the recommendations in congressional reports or to its own program budget
proposals in spending money appropriated by Congress at the line item level. A
failure to spend funds in accordance with the detailed justification material and
committee reports, however, could cause Congress to lose confidence in the requests
and might result in reduced appropriations or in line item appropriations acts. As85
a result, DOD procedures require officials to act in accordance with congressional
intent, as expressed in committee reports.
A third characteristic is that the overall funding level in the annual defense
appropriations act is difficult to compare directly to the level in the annual defense
authorization act. One reason, as noted earlier, is that the defense authorization bill
includes funding for activities financed in several different appropriations bill. For
example, the defense appropriations bill does not include funding for military
construction and family housing, which is provided in the military construction
appropriations bill. Nor does it include funding for Department of Energy defense-
related activities, which is provided in the energy and water appropriations bill. Also,
funds for the selective service system and for civil defense are provided in other
appropriations bills. The defense authorization bill, in contrast, authorizes funds for
all of these defense-related activities.
The defense authorization bill also takes account of offsetting receipts for sales
of surplus equipment to the public and sales from the national defense stockpile, for
example, while the defense appropriations bill does not. Moreover, until FY1998, the
annual defense authorization bill did not specifically authorize an amount of money
for military personnel, while the defense appropriations bill has always included such
amounts. The defense appropriations bill also provides funds for some other
functions, such as intelligence community management, which the authorization bill
does not address.
Finally, within the total, the authorization and appropriations bills use a
somewhat different account structure — the most significant difference is that the
authorization bill includes defense health program funding within the operation and
maintenance account, while the appropriations bill provides defense health funding
U.S. Congress, House Committee on Appropriations, "Report to accompany H.R. 11575,85
the Department of Defense Appropriation Bill 1974," H.Rept. 93-662, p. 16. Quoted and
discussed in Louis Fisher, The Constitution Between Friends: Congress, the President, and
the Law (New York, St. Martin’s Press, 1979), pp. 33-36.
under a separate account for "Other Defense Activities." Table 10 compares the
FY1999 national defense authorization act to the FY1999 DOD appropriations act.
Three major kinds of appropriations acts may be used to fund defense (and
other) programs: (1) regular appropriations acts, (2) continuing appropriations
resolutions, and (3) supplemental appropriations acts.
Regular Appropriations Acts. Five major regular appropriations acts, listed
in Table 9, in whole or in part provide national defense funding. The largest of the
defense measures is the annual defense appropriations act, which, for FY1999,
provided about 95% of the 050 budget function.
Continuing Appropriations Resolutions. If Congress fails to pass regular
appropriations acts by the beginning of the fiscal year on October 1, DOD (and other
affected agencies) can be left with no money to pay personnel, fund daily operations,
or execute new contracts. Standing law allows essential government activities,86
including national security-related functions, to continue even in the absence of
funding, but non-essential programs may not continue, and day-to-day agency
operations are disrupted. To avoid the disruptive effects of such funding cut-offs,
continuing appropriations legislation is often enacted by Congress to provide87
“stop-gap” budget authority until regular appropriations acts are approved. “Stop-
gap” continuing appropriations resolutions sometimes provide funds for DOD for a
certain specified time period at the level approved for the prior fiscal year or at the
President’s requested level, whichever is less, with the restriction that these funds
cannot be used for new programs. Additional restrictions, however, are often
included. A continuing resolution may, for example, specify that defense programs
will be funded at levels recommended in committee reports on defense appropriations
acts or in bills passed by one or both Houses of Congress.
Some continuing appropriations resolutions substitute for regular appropriations88
acts and provide full-year funding. The language in these resolutions is the same
For more information on continuing appropriations acts, see Sandy Streeter, Continuing86
Appropriations Acts: Brief Overview of Recent Practices, CRS Report 97-892.
Short-term continuing resolutions were used for defense funding in FY1996, FY1997,87
FY1998, and FY1999. The longest recent period of time for which defense funding was
provided under a continuing resolution was in FY1996. Of the thirteen regular FY1996
appropriations bills, only the military construction bill was completed by the September 30,
1995 deadline, and there were a series of temporary continuing resolutions for the FY1996
budget. DOD, along with other government agencies, was funded by three continuing
resolutions in October and November and suffered a government shutdown from November
14 to 18, 1995. The defense appropriations bill finally passed the House and Senate on
November 16, 1995 and became law without the President's signature on December 1, 1995.
For example, in FY1988 DOD was funded by a full-year continuing resolution, passed by88
Congress after four temporary continuing resolutions had expired. The House incorporated
the version of the DOD appropriations act that it had earlier passed into its version of the
continuing resolution (H.J.Res. 395), and the Senate followed the same strategy. Differences
in defense funding levels were then resolved in the conference on the continuing resolution.
Table 10: Comparison of FY 1999 Defense Appropriations and
Authorization Budget Amounts
(budget authority in billions of dollars)
National DefenseDepartment of Defense
Title Authorization Appropriations
Operation & Maintenance /a/93.584.0
RDT&E 36.0 36.8
Revolving & Mgmnt. Funds1.50.8
Other Defense Programs /c/NA11.8
Related Agencies /d/NA0.4
Other Defense-Related Activities /e/1.0NA
Receipts/Other -2.3 NA
Atomic Energy Defense Activities12.0NA
Total DOD 270.5250.5
Sources: Conference reports on the FY1999 Defense Appropriations bill (H.Rept. 105-746) and the FY1999
National Defense Authorization bill (H.Rept. 105-736).
a. O&M in the appropriations bills differs from O&M in the authorization bills mainly because the Defense
Health Program and Drug Interdiction are included in O&M in the authorization but in "Other Defense
Programs" in appropriations.
b. Procurement in the appropriations bills differs from Procurement in the authorization bills mainly because
Chemical Agents and Munitions Destruction is included in Procurement in the authorization but in "Other
Defense Programs" in appropriations.
c. Includes Defense Health Program, Chemical Agents and Munitions Destruction, Drug Interdiction, and
Office of the Inspector General.
d. Includes CIA Retirement and Disability System Fund, Intelligence Community Management Account,
Payment to Kaho'olawe Island Fund, and National Security Education Trust Fund.
e. Includes Selective Service System and defense-related civil defense activities of the Federal Emergency
as a regular appropriations act, with specific sums appropriated for all the
appropriations accounts and for whatever individual programs Congress specifically
Supplemental Appropriations Acts. Frequently, Administrations request funds
from Congress to cover additional expenses during the current fiscal year. Congress
may approve such funding in supplemental appropriations acts. Prior to passage
of the Congressional Budget Act in 1974, supplemental funding bills were regularly
used to provide funding for day-to-day agency operations — pay raises for DOD and
other federal employees, for example, were usually funded in supplemental
appropriations measures. In recent years, supplemental appropriations bills have been
used mainly to provide funding for unanticipated expenses — though there is
sometimes an argument about whether the requirements should have been anticipated
In 1991 and 1992, for example, the Congress approved supplemental
appropriations to provide funds for Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Every
year since then, Congress has provided some supplemental funding for the
Department of Defense, mainly to cover costs of unplanned military operations
abroad, including operations in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and the Persian Gulf.
Supplemental funds have also frequently been provided to cover storm damage to
defense facilities and equipment — indeed, funds for defense programs have often
been provided in supplemental appropriations measures that also include substantial
amounts to respond to domestic disasters, such as earthquakes and floods. There also
remain some vestiges of the older procedure — cost of living adjustments for
veteran's benefits, for example, are annually approved as part of a supplemental
appropriations bill. Still, there is no longer an expectation that an annual supplemental
will be considered as part of the regular, yearly budget process.
Generally, supplemental funds are provided in response to Administration
requests, and the Administration frequently sends one or more packages of
supplemental appropriations requests to Congress for activities in the current year at
the same time as it sends the regular budget request for the next fiscal year to Capitol
Hill. Congress often adds funding for unrequested items to the supplemental89
appropriations bills, however, and such "must pass" bills also often become vehicles
for policy "riders" that may be controversial.
Over the past few years, procedures for acting on supplemental appropriations
measures have been altered further by provisions of the Budget Enforcement Act
(BEA) of 1990. As noted earlier, the BEA established enforceable caps on total
discretionary spending and, in some years, it set separate caps on defense and other
types of discretionary expenditures. In order to allow for supplemental appropriations
to respond to emergencies without requiring offsetting rescissions, the BEA provided
that the discretionary spending caps would be increased by amounts specifically
designated as emergency appropriations by the President and Congress. The BEA
also specifically provided that funding for Operation Desert Shield, which was
underway when the Act was passed, would be counted as emergency appropriations.90
These emergency spending provisions were included in later extensions of the BEA
in 1993 and 1997.
The use of the emergency designation for defense — and other — supplemental
funding has frequently been controversial, however. Some Members of Congress
have argued that funding for military contingency operations, in particular, should be
anticipated and should, therefore, either be absorbed within amounts provided in the
regular defense appropriations bills or should be offset with rescissions of other
defense funds. Others have argued that defense readiness will suffer if offsets are
required. The 104 Congress (1995-96) generally tried to identify offsets for mostth
Supplemental appropriations requests are printed as House documents.89
This provision was also interpreted to apply to Operation Desert Storm.90
supplemental appropriations, including defense funds, in order to avoid adding to the
federal budget deficit, and the issue continued to be debated in the 105 Congressth
(1997-98). The result, for defense programs, at least, has been inconsistent —
Congress has sometimes offset supplemental defense funding with rescissions and91
sometimes has not.
The Relationship Between Authorization and Appropriations. Some
confusion, and occasionally some controversy, has arisen over time concerning the
role of the defense authorizing committees compared to that of the defense
appropriations committees. Some argue that the authorizing committees should focus
their attention on larger defense policy issues, leaving line-item oversight and review
to the appropriations committees. Others argue that line-item authorization
contributes to more comprehensive congressional oversight of defense programs. The
activities for which authorizations are required has expanded over time along with the
growing breadth of annual authorization acts. (See Table 8.)
The issue of unauthorized appropriations can be particularly contentious. Title
10 of the U.S. Code — the body of law that governs the Department of Defense and
the military services — provides that “no funds may be appropriated for any fiscal
year to or for the use of any armed force or obligated or expended” for specified
categories of expenditures “unless funds therefor have been specifically authorized by
law.” Moreover, the rules of the House and the Senate each generally prohibit92
appropriation of funds for programs that have not been authorized, and these rules
can be enforced by parliamentary points of order.
In practice, however, appropriations bills often provide funds over and above
amounts approved in authorization bills and for activities that have not been
specifically mentioned in authorization acts or governing report language. Legal
opinions have consistently held that appropriations acts may provide more or less
money for particular programs than has been authorized; may earmark funds for
projects not specifically authorized; may, if enacted after an authorization measure,
alter the purpose of a program established by an authorization; and may extend the
availability of funds beyond the period provided in authorizing legislation. The
general rules are (1) that later legislation prevails — which is almost always the
appropriations bill — and (2) that more specific provisions of law prevail over less
specific provisions. 93
In any event, defense authorization and appropriations laws themselves seldom
conflict directly on particular programs because the laws usually do not specify
funding levels for particular line items or program elements. Instead, both kinds of
For a thorough review of the debate over emergency supplemental defense appropriations91
since enactment of the Budget Enforcement Act, see Stephen Daggett, "Emergency
Appropriations for the Department of Defense," CRS General Distribution Memo, August 18,
For an extensive, definitive discussion of the legal relationship between authorizations and93
appropriations, see U.S. General Accounting Office, Principals of Federal Appropriations
Law, Second Edition, GAO Report Number OBC-91-5, July 1991, Vol. I, Chapter 2.
laws provide specific amounts at the “account” level — for example, the FY1999
authorization act authorizes $7,642,200,000 for Navy aircraft, while the FY1999
defense appropriations act provides $7,541,709,000. Levels of funding for particular
programs, like the F/A-18 fighter, are specified in committee reports, but, except in
unusual circumstances, not in the language of the law. Differences in report language
are not matters to be settled in the courts or even by points of order in Congress.
Instead, disputes between the authorization committees and appropriations
committees over funding for particular programs are matters that the committees have94
periodically tried to work out through consultation and informal compromises.
An obvious question then arises: What happens if the authorization bill is not
passed at all or is substantially delayed? Sometimes, as in FY1996, the defense
authorization bill has been vetoed and then has not been enacted until several months
after the fiscal year has begun. In such cases, what happens to the workings of the
The answer is that without a defense authorization act for the current fiscal year,
the Pentagon cannot make policy changes that are normally included in an
authorization. As long as the appropriations act passes, the Pentagon has funding —
but certain activities may be limited because of the lack of authorization by Congress.
Under standing law, new military construction projects cannot go forward without
both authorization and appropriations. Moreover, authorization acts often make95
changes in standing law governing, for example, military end-strength levels and
regulations regarding military pay and benefits. Finally, if a particular program has
been authorized for only a limited period of time, and funding is not specifically
provided in an appropriations act, and the authorization is delayed, that program may
In debate over the FY1998 defense authorization bill, Senator Bob Smith of New
Hampshire outlined how the Pentagon would be affected if the bill were not enacted:96
3.All bonuses will continue at present levels, which prevents authorized
increases to aviation and nuclear officer bonuses;
4.The Navy will lose the ability to have the Chief of Naval Operation's choice
for Chief of Chaplains;
The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 provides that the Comptroller General may issue94
legal decisions regarding the availability of appropriated funds for particular purposes, a
function earlier performed by officials of the Treasury Department. Decisions are binding on
federal agencies. In some cases, private parties may request a decision by the Comptroller
General or may have recourse to the courts. See U.S. General Accounting Office, Principles
of Federal Appropriations Law, Second Edition, GAO Report Number OBC-91-5, July 1991,
Vol. I, Chapter 1, Part E.
may carry out such military construction projects as are authorized by law."
Congressional Record, November 6, 1997, pp. S11817-11818.96
5.Construction of 385 military construction and 45 family housing projects
will not be initiated;
6.There will be no authority to continue the [National Guard] Challenge
program [for youth];
7.There will be no authority to expand the counternarcotics Riverine Program
in Peru and Colombia;
9.There will be no authority for the Department of Navy to reprogram
funding for the advanced procurement and construction of components for
the next nuclear aircraft carrier; and
Some of these consequences refer to changes in legislation that are considered in
authorization bills, but not in appropriations measures. Other consequences concern
matters that happened to be addressed in the authorization bill, but not in the
appropriations measure then being considered. If, as in other areas of the budget,
defense authorization bills were not regularly enacted, it is likely that appropriations
bills would begin to address issues now considered in the authorization process.
Congressional Earmarks and Additions to Administration Requests. Two
other occasionally contentious issues — in the appropriations process, particularly —
concern (1) congressional earmarking of funds for particular projects and
(2) unrequested congressional additions to defense budget requests. What it means
to "earmark" funds in appropriations bills is difficult to define precisely. One quite
carefully worded definition was provided by Congressional Quarterly in a glossary of
legislative terms — according to this definition to "earmark" is:
To set aside funds for a specific purpose, use, or recipient. Generally speaking,
virtually every appropriation is earmarked, and so are certain revenue sources
credited to trust funds. In common usage, however, the term is often applied as
an epithet for funds set aside for such purposes as research projects,
demonstration projects, parks, laboratories, academic grants, and contracts in
particular congressional districts or states or for certain specified universities or
Congressional reports on the defense authorization and appropriations bills
allocate funds to particular programs in great detail, specifying, for example, how
many weapons of what types are to be procured, how much money is available for
recruiting, and which military construction projects may proceed. In a sense,
therefore, funds in all defense bills are fully earmarked (directed). Usually, however,
the term "earmark" is used in the case of defense-related legislation to mean allocating
funds at a level of specificity below the normal line item level. Understood in this
way, a congressional committee would not be said to earmark funds if it adds money
to buy additional fighter aircraft, for example, but would be said to earmark funds if
From Congressional Quarterly's "Glossary of Congressional Terms," updated as of August97
it specifies that a particular kind of radar is to be incorporated into an aircraft upgrade
Defined in this way, defense appropriations bills normally contain earmarks of
funds for a variety of purposes. Occasionally, certain kinds of earmarks have come
under criticism, and procedures have subsequently been devised to avoid them.
Research grants to particular universities, for example, were once quite frequent, but
such grants are now mainly made through a peer review process. Defense
appropriations bills continue to earmark funds for a wide variety of research projects,
for acquisition of particular items of hardware, and for a broad range of medical
research programs. Defense authorization bills also often include such earmarks, and,
unless appropriations measures specifically reject them, they are equally binding on
A closely related issue concerns congressional additions of funding for particular
items to annual defense budget requests. In some years, Congress has added
substantial amounts to the overall defense budget. Congress added almost $7 billion
in FY1996, $10.5 billion in FY1997, and $2.6 billion in FY1998 to Pentagon requests.
For FY1999 Congress provided $8.3 billion in a separate supplemental appropriations
measure, of which it is estimated more than half was not requested. Obviously, in
such years, Congress has added money for programs that the Administration did not
include in its proposed budget. In other years, however, Congress has approved
roughly the level of defense spending requested, or it has reduced funding. Even in
those years, however, Congress has always trimmed funding for some programs and
increased funding for others, so some items have been added.
Some Members of Congress and others have occasionally cited congressional
earmarks of defense funds and congressional additions of unrequested projects as
examples of wasteful practices. The counterargument is that congressional oversight
of defense policy necessarily involves making adjustments in defense plans. The
simple fact that the Department of Defense did not formally request something does
not mean it is undeserving of funding — part of Congress's job is to determine
whether agency priorities are appropriate. For their part, senior Defense officials have
been more critical of some congressional additions to the budget than of others.
Clinton Administration officials frequently have argued that if Congress is going to
add money to the budget, the additions should be for items that are included in future
plans of each of the .
Many recent congressional additions to the budget have, indeed, been within the
DOD's future plans. In some cases, however, Congress clearly has had different
priorities than those reflected in Administration defense plans. During the Bush
Administration, for example, Congress insisted on continued development of the V-22
"Osprey" tilt-rotor aircraft, which Secretary of Defense Cheney wanted to cancel.
During the Clinton Administration, Congress has frequently added money for missile
defense programs and for programs like the B-2 bomber. Congress consistently has
added money for National Guard and Reserve programs.
The third stage of the defense budget process is budget execution. It begins
with the Treasury authorizing agencies to draw funds from an account established by
an appropriation and ends with the expenditure of appropriated funds. As discussed98
earlier, the appropriations process makes budget authority available for obligation.
Usually, budget authority is then obligated and spent for the purpose specified in
legislation and in report language, but other dispositions are possible — specifically,
funds may be reprogrammed or transferred to other programs or accounts; may expire
without being expended; or may be deferred or proposed for rescission under
procedures governed by the Impoundment Control Act of 1974.
Transfers and Reprogramming. Under procedures worked out between
congressional committees and executive branch agencies, funds can be obligated for
purposes other than originally approved. In technical language, they can be
transferred or reprogrammed. Such flexibility is provided for many reasons. Often
pay raises are not fully funded in annual defense appropriations bills, for example, so
money must be reprogrammed from other accounts to meet payroll needs. Unplanned
military operations may require funding if not financed through supplemental
appropriations. Procurement, medical, or other operating costs often grow beyond
planned levels. Conversely, extra money may be available from some sources.
Program delays may prevent the timely obligation of funds. Savings may accrue from
foreign currency fluctuations or from lower fuel costs or from lower than expected
Technically, a reprogramming is any shift of funds from one program to another
within the same budget account, while a transfer is a shift of funds from one program
to another in different accounts (either in the same budget year or from one budget
year to another). DOD, however, uses the term "reprogramming" for both kinds of
transactions. In annual appropriations bills, Congress formally grants the Department
of Defense authority to transfer up to specified amounts between accounts. In recent
years DOD has been given general transfer authority of $2 billion per year, and
additional amounts have been made available for transfer for specific purposes.99
DOD regulations, reflecting instructions from the appropriations committees,
distinguish between three different kinds of reprogramming actions:
!actions requiring congressional notification and approval, including (a) all
transfers between accounts, (b) any change to a program that is a "matter of
After the Treasury issues warrants that authorize agencies to draw funds from their98
accounts, OMB apportions the funds by time period and by activity, function, project, or
object classification. The agency then allocates the funds to administrative units.
Some appropriations accounts are established specifically as "transfer" accounts to which99
funds are appropriated in order to be transferred to other operating accounts. Drug
interdiction, environmental restoration, and overseas contingency operations are all transfer
accounts. Transfers from these accounts do not count against the limit on general transfer
special interest" to Congress, and (c) increases to congressionally approved
!actions requiring only notification of Congress, including reprogrammings that
exceed certain threshold amounts; and
!actions not requiring any congressional notification, including reprogrammings
below certain threshold amounts and those that reclassify dollar amounts
"within an appropriation without changing the purpose for which the funds
were appropriated." 100
The Department of Defense has also developed detailed procedures, first, to track
congressional interest items and, second, to provide a basis for making the requests
Over the years, Congress has provided various instructions to the Department
of Defense governing reprogramming actions. Thresholds for congressional
notification have changed only rarely — appropriations conference report language
established the current thresholds for military personnel, procurement, and RDT&E
in 1988 and for O&M in 1989. The appropriations committees have instructed DOD
not to use reprogramming actions to alter items that Congress has added to the
budget or to restore funding that Congress has denied, and they have strongly
discouraged the use of reprogramming procedures to initiate new programs. In recent
years, Congress has required that DOD provide a single annual request for
reprogramming actions that require congressional approval.
Expiration of Funds. When provided in an appropriations bill, budget authority
is generally made available for obligation within a specified period of time. In the case
of defense funding, the period of availability varies depending on the account — funds
in military personnel accounts and operation and maintenance accounts are available
for obligation only for one year, in most procurement accounts for three years, and
in the shipbuilding account for five years. Funding that is not obligated during its101
period of availability expires and may no longer be used to incur new obligations.
For a discussion of the evolution of the reprogramming process, see, David W. Roberts, "A100
Historical Analysis of the Defense Reprogramming Process," Armed Forces Comptroller, Fall
1985. p. 21. As directed by Congress, current regulations establish the following thresholds
for congressional notification: for military personnel, an increase of $10 million or more in a
budget activity; for O&M an increase of $10 million of more in a budget activity; for
procurement, an increase or decrease of $10 million or 20 percent (whichever is greater) to
a line item; for RDT&E, an increase or decrease of $4 million or 20 percent to a line item.
Under P.L 84-798 (passed in 1956), the Congress established "M accounts" for expired101
budget authority which had been obligated and not expended and "merged surplus accounts"
for expired budget authority which was unobligated. Money could be drawn from these
accounts to meet certain obligations. The use of these accounts became a matter of contention
in the 1980s, when tens of billions of dollars accumulated in them. Congress abolished these
accounts in the FY1991 Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 101-510).
The Department of Defense and other agencies maintain separate expired
appropriations accounts including both obligated and unobligated balances for five
years. These accounts may continue to be used to pay for existing obligations, but102
after five years, expired accounts will be closed and no further disbursements from103
them will be possible. The availability of funds can be extended for an additional
period of time only if reappropriated in later appropriations acts. Reappropriated
funds are counted as new budget authority in the year in which they are made
Repealing Budget Authority. The President has two ways NOT to spend
appropriated funds — deferral and rescission. The Impoundment Control Act of
1974 allows the President to delay the expenditure of funds (deferral authority) and
to cancel funds (rescission authority). The Line Item Veto Act of 1996 (P.L 104-130,
110 Stat. 1200) provided the President with enhanced rescission authority, but it was
subsequently ruled unconstitutional.
Deferrals are unobligated or unexpended funds, which are held back for later
obligation or expenditure. Deferrals are permitted only for limited reasons,
specifically, "contingencies, greater efficiency, and as otherwise specifically provided
by law." Deferrals cannot extend beyond the end of the fiscal year in which the
deferral message is reported to Congress. They are not to be used to institute
changes in policy. Deferrals can be disapproved by both houses of Congress, at which
time the funds in question must be released for obligation. 104
Rescission, which cancels appropriated funds, is a procedure which may be
initiated either by the President or by the Congress. According to the 1974
Impoundment Control Act, all rescissions proposed by the President must be reported
to Congress, following which Congress has 45 days of continuous session to approve
As opposed to the process under the 1956 law, expired appropriations accounts now102
maintain their fiscal year identity, which imposes restrictions on how they can be used.
According to the Antideficiency Act (31 U.S.C. 1341(a)), agencies are prohibited from
making expenditures or incurring obligations in excess of available appropriations. As long
as expired appropriations had no fiscal year identity, the Antideficiency Act did not apply to
their use. Currently, their use is limited by the amount appropriated for a specific
appropriations account in a specific fiscal year — see U.S. General Accounting Office,
Expired Appropriations: New Limitations on Availability Make Improved Management by
DOD Essential, GAO/NSIAD-91-226, July 1991, pp. 8-9.
Note that the closing of expired accounts does not involve the "return" of money to the103
Treasury, since funds only leave the Treasury when they are expended, not when they are
appropriated. Closing an expired account is simply a bookkeeping transaction preventing the
obligation or expenditure of the funds in question.
A controversy regarding deferral of funds occurred during the Bush Administration when104
the Department of Defense imposed a "moratorium" on military construction programs from
January, 24, 1990 until April 16, 1991. Responding to complaints by Members of Congress,
the General Accounting Office (GAO) judged the moratorium to be a deferral which should
have been reported and made subject to congressional approval. See Martin Cohen and
Stephen Daggett, Military Construction: Current Controversies and Long-Term Issues,
CRS Report 91-669 F, Sep. 3, 1991, pp. 19-24.
the proposal. If Congress fails to approve a proposed rescission, it is void and the
executive branch must make the budget authority available for obligation. Rescission
proposals often accompany supplemental appropriations requests. (See above.)
The line item veto procedure which Congess approved in 1996 represented a
form of enhanced rescission authority. In contrast to the rescission procedures of105
the Congressional Budget Act, the Line Item Veto Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-130) put
the burden on Congress to disapprove a presidential veto within a 30-day period.
Under the law, the President could propose rescission of certain items specifically
identified in an appropriations law or in governing report language. Congress could
overturn a presidential rescission only by passing a bill specifically rejecting the
rescission. Any bill or joint resolution of disapproval could be vetoed by the President,
so it would ultimately require a two-thirds majority in each chamber to override. In
1998, the Supreme Court found this to be an unconstitutional cession of congressional
powers to the executive branch, which voided President Clinton's line item vetoes.106
For details on the line item veto process see Louis Fisher and Virginia McMurtry, The Line105
Item Veto Act: Procedural Issues, CRS Report 96-973 and Virginia McMurtry, Item Veto
and Expanded Impoundment Proposals, CRS Issue Brief 89148.
President Clinton used the line item veto authority in the FY1998 appropriations cycle. In106
October 1997, the President vetoed $144 million from the FY1998 DOD Appropriations Act
and $287 million from the FY1998 Military Construction Act. In November 1997, the
Congress passed H.R. 2631 disapproving the President's line item vetoes in FY1998 Military
Construction Act. The President vetoed H.R. 2631 in November 1997, but the Congress then
overrode the President's veto in February 1998.
Appendix A: Spend-Out Rates and Defense Budget Reductions
Because Congress votes annually on budget authority (BA), not outlays, any
strategy that calls for reducing the defense budget in order to cut the federal budget
deficit must take into consideration the relationship between BA and outlays. The
fact that funds for different defense programs are spent at different rates means that
outlay savings resulting from cuts in budget authority in a given year depend on which
programs are reduced.
Table 11 shows that funds for military personnel and O&M programs spend out
at a higher rate than other national defense programs do. Hence, the quickest way to
achieve outlay savings in defense is to cut budget authority in these areas. For every
$1 cut in BA for military personnel programs, for example, a 95¢ cut in outlays is
achieved. The disadvantage of cutting mainly fast-spending accounts is that such
reductions result in large cuts in personnel end-strengths (and, therefore, in force
structure) or in "readiness" programs (such as training and equipment overhauls)
which may dramatically reduce the effectiveness of defense forces.
Table 11. Estimated Outlay Rates for
FY1999 DOD Appropriations by Title
(outlays as percentage of budget authority)
Title FY1999 FY2000 FY2001 FY2002 FY2003 FY2004
Military 94.4 4.8 0.4 0.1
Procurement 22.3 30.4 23.6 11.3 5.7 3.5
Research, 51.3 36.6 7.7 2.2 0.9 0.4
Military 13.5 36.1 26.3 14.1 6.2 1.7
Source: U.S. Department of Defense, Financial Summary Tables: Department of Defense Budget
for Fiscal Year 1999, Feb. 1998, Table K.
Notes: Spend-out rates vary widely within the procurement title. First fiscal year outlay rates range
from 4.9% for Shipbuilding and Conversion, Navy, to 55.9% for Other Procurement, Air Force.
Reducing funding for procurement programs is another way of achieving
reductions in the defense budget. Cutting budget authority for weapons procurement,
however, generally achieves relatively small outlay savings in the first budget year
because of the relatively slow rate at which procurement funds are spent. Savings
achieved in this manner could be substantial in the long run, but would not cut the
deficit by much in the current fiscal year. 107
One analyst pointed out in 1990 that eliminating the entire procurement account for107
FY1991 (totaling $66.5 billion in budget authority) would result in first-year outlay savings
of only $12 billion. MacKubin Thomas Owens, "Micromanaging the Defense Budget," Public
Interest, no. 100, Summer 1990, p. 142.
Appendix B: Department of Defense Budget Appropriations
Accounts With Funding in FY1999
Military PersonnelOverseas Humanitarian, Disaster, and
Military Personnel, ArmyCivic Aid
Military Personnel, NavyFormer Soviet Union Threat Reduction
Military Personnel, Marine CorpsPentagon Reservation Transfer Fund
Military Personnel, Air ForceContingency Operations MWR Fund
Reserve Personnel, ArmyQuality of Life Enhancements, Defense
Reserve Personnel, Navy
Reserve Personnel, Marine CorpsProcurement
Reserve Personnel, Air ForceAircraft Procurement, Army
National Guard Personnel, ArmyMissile Procurement, Army
National Guard Personnel, Air ForceProcurement of Weapons and
Tracked Combat Vehicles,Army
Operation and MaintenanceProcurement of Ammunition, Army
Operation and Maintenance, ArmyOther Procurement, Army
Operation and Maintenance, NavyAircraft Procurement, Navy
Operation and Maintenance,Weapons Procurement, Navy
Marine CorpsProcurement of Ammunition, Navy
Operation and Maintenance, Air Forceand Marine Corps
Operation and Maintenance,Shipbuilding and Conversion, Navy
Defense-WideOther Procurement, Navy
Operation and Maintenance,Procurement, Marine Corps
Army ReserveAircraft Procurement, Air Force
Operation and Maintenance,Missile Procurement, Air Force
Navy ReserveProcurement of Ammunition, Air
Operation and Maintenance,Force
Marine Corps ReserveOther Procurement, Air Force
Operation and Maintenance,National Guard and Reserve
Air Force ReserveEquipment
Operation and Maintenance,Procurement, Defense-Wide
Army National Guard
Operation and Maintenance,Research, Development, Test and
Air National GuardEvaluation
Overseas Contingency Operations Research, Development, Test and
Transfer FundEvaluation, Army
United States Court of Appeals for theResearch, Development, Test and
Armed ForcesEvaluation, Navy
Environmental Restoration, ArmyResearch, Development, Test and
Environmental Restoration, NavyEvaluation, Air Force
Environmental Restoration, Air ForceResearch, Development, Test and
Environmental Restoration, Defense-Evaluation, Defense-Wide
WideDevelopmental Test and Evaluation,
Environmental Restoration, FormerlyDefense
Used Defense SitesOperational Test and Evaluation,
Revolving and Management Funds
Defense Working Capital Funds
Reserve Mobilization IncomeMilitary Construction, Army National
National Defense Sealift FundMilitary Construction, Air National
Other Department of DefenseMilitary Construction, Army Reserve
ProgramsMilitary Construction, Naval Reserve
Defense Health ProgramMilitary Construction, Air Force
Chemical Agents and MunitionsReserve
Destruction, DefenseBase Realignment and Closure
Drug Interdiction and Counter-Drug Account,Part II
Activities, DefenseBase Realignment and Closure
Office of the Inspector GeneralAccount,Part III
Base Realignment and Closure
Related AgenciesAccount,Part IV
Central Intelligence Agency RetirementNATO Security Investment Program
and Disability System Fund
Intelligence Community ManagementFamily Housing
AccountFamily Housing, Army
National Security Education TrustFamily Housing, Navy and Marine
Payment to Kaho'olawe IslandFamily Housing, Air Force
Conveyance, Remediation, &Family Housing, Defense-Wide
Environmental Restoration FundDepartment of Defense Family
National Security Education TrustHousing Improvement Fund
FundHomeowners Assistance Fund,
Military Construction, Army
Military Construction, Navy
Military Construction, Air Force
Military Construction, Defense-Wide
Appendix C: Major Congressional Action on the FY1999 Defense
03/20/98 -- Senate Budget Committee reported its version of Concurrent Budget
Resolution (CBR) (S.Con.Res. 86, S. Rept. 105-170)
04/02/98 -- Senate passed its version of CBR
05/06/98 -- House Committee on National Security reported its version of national
defense authorization act (H.R. 3616, H.Rept. 105-532)
05/07/98 -- Senate Committee on Armed Services reported its version of
authorization act (S. 2057, S.Rept. 105-189)
H. Rept. 105-555)
06/04/98 -- Senate Committee on Appropriations reported its version of DOD
appropriations act (S. 2132, S. Rept. 105-200)
06/05/98 -- House passed its version of CBR
06/11/98 -- Senate Committee on Appropriations reported its version of military
construction (MilCon) appropriations act (S. 2160, S.Rept. 105-213)
06/16/98 -- House Committee on Appropriations reported its version of MilCon
appropriations act (H.R. 4059, H.Rept. 105-578)
06/17/98 -- House Committee on Appropriations reported its version of DOD
appropriations act (H.R. 4103, H.Rept. 105-591)
07/30/98 -- Senate passed its version of DOD appropriations act, as amended
Appendix D: Guide to Basic Defense Budget Documents
The following is an annotated list of some important defense budget documents
and studies published annually and readily available. The list, divided into three major
categories, includes items available from: (1) the executive branch, (2) legislative108
branch research organizations, and (3) non-governmental organizations.
Because of frequent changes in budget accounting by OMB and DOD, one is
advised in doing any analysis of trends to use the most recent available figures that
have been revised to reflect a consistent set of programs.
Budget of the United States Government. The official statement of the
President's federal budget request to Congress. Includes a brief overview of defense
programs and priorities, an introduction to basic budget concepts, and a description
of the defense budget divided by appropriations title, account, and major force
program. Budget data for the most part is in current dollars.
Mid-Session Review of the Budget. Provides updates of the Administration's
economic forecasts used in developing the President's budget and of the current status
of legislation that would implement the budget.
The Secretary of Defense's Annual Report to Congress. The Defense
Secretary's justification of the defense budget to Congress. In addition to budget data
on major defense programs, usually includes a chapter on "The Defense Budget" with
information on the defense budget by category, price-level assumptions, trends in real
growth, the economic effects of defense spending, and the Future Year Defense Plan.
Some historical budget data are included in the appendix.
Department of Defense Press Release on the Defense Budget. Issued at the
time the defense budget is submitted to Congress. Includes a brief description of
major defense initiatives in the budget and some useful tables.
National Defense Budget Estimates ("The Green Book"). Annual product
of the DOD Comptroller. Contains historical data on the DOD budget in terms of
budget authority (BA), total obligational authority (TOA), and outlays, in current and
constant dollars, by account, title, and major force program; deflators, military and
civilian pay increases; budget estimate chronologies; congressional action on DOD
budget requests; and data on defense, the public sector, and the economy.
Program Acquisition Costs by Weapon System. Prepared by DOD "for the
convenience and information of the public and the press." Provides a summary of
acquisition costs (procurement, RDT&E, and military construction) for major
weapons systems covering the budget year(s) and two prior years.
Many of these reports are available electronically on the OMB and DOD web pages.108
Procurement Programs (P-1). A listing of procurement programs in the
defense budget by line item, budget activity, account, and title covering the budget
year(s) and two prior years. "The P-1 is provided annually to the DOD oversight
committees of the Congress coincident with the transmission by the President of the
Budget of the United States Government."
RDT&E Programs (R-1). A listing of RDT&E programs in the defense budget
by program element, budget activity, account, and title.
Construction Programs (C-1). A listing of construction programs in the
defense budget by state, country, and facility.
O&M Overview. A listing of Operation and Maintenance programs.
Justification Material. In addition to the above documents, DOD submits
detailed justification material to the appropriate congressional committees on every
defense program. Some of this material is made public during testimony by DOD
officials before Congress. There are both classified and unclassified versions of much
of this material.
Congressional Budget Office (CBO). CBO annually publishes several reports
on the current year's federal budget request. The defense budget is discussed in:
2."The Economic and Budget Outlook: Fiscal Years 19xx-19xx", and
The first provides background information on the defense budget and analyzes
various specific proposals for reducing growth in the defense budget. The second
analyzes budget trends and presents CBO's economic and budget projections,
including estimates required by the Budget Enforcement Act, the third analyzes the
Administration's budget plans, including defense budget proposals. CBO also
produces an update of "The Economic and Budget Outlook" later in the year.
Congressional Research Service (CRS). CRS regularly produces reports on
various aspects of the defense budget. Relevant products include:
--"Appropriations for FY19xx: Defense" This annual report tracks the
congressional defense appropriations and authorization process, including
decisions on specific weapons programs. The FY1999 version is 98-205
and is electronically available on the CRS Home Page.
--"Appropriations for FY19xx: Military Construction" This annual report
tracks the congressional military construction appropriations and
authorization process. The FY1999 version is 98-210 and is electronically
available on the CRS Home Page.
This report was not produced in 1998 for the FY1999 fiscal year. It will be produced in109
the future with a different title.
--"Defense Budget for FYxxxx: Data Summary." An annual CRS report
presenting a range of data on the President's national defense budget
request, including analyses that show the request in historical perspective.
For FY1999, see CRS Report 98-155.
General Accounting Office (GAO). GAO produces a wide variety of studies
of defense budget issues, as well as evaluations of specific defense programs.
Committee Publications. The six committees having primary jurisdiction over
the defense budget publish hearings and reports on bills. (See Appendix C for the bill
report numbers for FY1999.)
A number of private organizations regularly publish studies on the defense
budget. The Brookings Institution sometimes publishes an analysis of the defense
budget with proposed alternatives. The American Enterprise Institute, the Center for
Defense Information, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Center
for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment, and the Heritage Foundation also publish
detailed studies analyzing the defense budget. The Association of the U.S. Army
prepares a detailed annual review of the Army budget. The Electronics Industries
Alliance prepares a ten-year projection of the defense budget.
Among the journals that track the defense budget on a regular basis are:
Aerospace Daily, Armed Forces Journal International, Aviation Week and Space
Technology, Congressional Quarterly, Defense Daily, Defense News, Defense Week,
Inside the Pentagon, and National Journal.
Appendix E: Glossary of Defense Budget Terms
Accrual Accounting -- With respect to military retired pay, a method of recording
costs designed to reflect the liability to the federal government for the future
retirement costs of military personnel. Beginning in FY1985, the Services are
charged (in the military personnel title) for the future costs of retirement for
military personnel currently on active or reserve duty. The actual payment of
benefits to current retirees is made from a newly created Military Retirement
Trust Fund in budget function 600. This method of accounting for retired
military pay represents a change from the previous method which reflected only
actual payments to current retirees on a cash basis.
Advanced Procurement -- Authority provided in an appropriations act to obligate
and disburse during a fiscal year before that in which the related end item is
procured. The funds are added to the budget authority for the fiscal year and
deducted from the budget authority of the succeeding year. Used in major
acquisition programs for advance procurement of components whose long-lead-
time requires purchase early in order to reduce the overall procurement lead-time
of the major end item. Mostly used for nuclear submarine acquisition.
Appropriation -- One form of budget authority provided by Congress permitting
federal agencies to incur obligations and to make payments out of the Treasury
for specified purposes. Appropriated funds must be spent for purposes
specifically designated by Congress but are not necessarily spent in the year in
which they are provided.
Appropriations Title -- The most general category in the defense budget as
approved by Congress. Major titles include military personnel; operation and
maintenance (O&M); procurement; research, development, test and evaluation
(RDT&E); military construction; family housing; and revolving and management
funds. Appropriations titles are divided into accounts, which are further divided
into budget activities, line items, and/or program elements.
Authorization -- Establishes or maintains a Government program or agency by
defining its scope. May set a specific limit on how much Congress can
appropriate for that program. Authorizing legislation is normally a prerequisite
for appropriation. An authorization does not make money available.
Available for Obligation -- Appropriated funds are available for obligation for
various lengths of time, depending on the appropriations law and program.
Funds not obligated before the expiration of their availability lapse, i.e., the funds
generally are no longer available for obligation and eventually revert to the
Average Real Growth -- The compound annual rate of change in real funding or
expenditures over a given period of time.
Borrowing Authority -- Statutory authority that permits obligations to be incurred
but requires that funds be borrowed, generally from the Treasury, to liquidate
Budget Amendment -- A formal request submitted to Congress by the President
after his formal budget transmittal but before completion of appropriations action
by Congress that revises previous requests.
Budget Authority -- The authority provided by law to a federal agency to enter into
obligations for the provision of goods and services. It makes funds available for
obligation for one or more years, depending on the appropriations law and
program. Appropriations, borrowing authority and contract authority are forms
of budget authority.
Component -- One of the four major divisions of the Department of Defense.
Includes the Army, Navy/Marine Corps, Air Force, and Defense Agencies.
Concurrent Budget Resolution -- A resolution passed by both Houses of
Congress, but not requiring the signature of the President, establishing targets
for receipts and for budget authority and outlays of the major budget functions
and the overall federal budget. A part of the budget process established by the
Congressional Budget Act of 1974.
Continuing Resolution -- An act (in the form of a joint resolution) that provides
budget authority to agencies or programs whose regular appropriation have not
been enacted after the new fiscal year has started. A continuing resolution is
usually a temporary measure that expires on a specified state or is superseded by
enactment of the regular appropriations act. Some continuing resolutions,
however, are in effect for the remainder of the fiscal year and are the means of
enacting regular appropriations.
Contract Authority -- Statutory authority that permits obligations in advance of
appropriations but requires a subsequent appropriation or the collection of
receipts to liquidate (pay) these obligations.
Current/Constant Dollars -- Cost in current dollars is the dollar value of goods or
services in terms of prices current at the time of purchase, sometimes called
"then-year" dollars. Cost in constant dollars is the dollar value of goods and
services in terms of prices fixed in a given (constant) year. Constant dollar
figures eliminate the effects of inflation and are used to measure real growth.
Defense Planning Guidance (DPG) -- DOD planning document prepared by the
Secretary of Defense and his staff in the first phase of the Planning,
Programming, and Budgeting System.
Defense Resource Planning Board (DRPB) -- A high-level DOD group that
assists the Secretary of Defense in managing the Planning, Programming, and
Budgeting System process.
Deferral -- An action or inaction of a U.S. officer or employee that temporarily
withholds, delays, or effectively precludes the obligation or expenditure of
Deficit -- With respect to any fiscal year, the amount by which total federal budget
outlays exceed total federal revenues.
Deficit Target -- The level to which the deficit must be reduced, as stipulated in the
Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit reduction act (as amended).
Deobligation of Funds -- Changing the obligation status of funds through
cancellation or renegotiation of a contract or price revision.
Direct Spending -- Spending provided in permanent laws (including most
entitlement and other so-called mandatory spending) as opposed to that
controlled through annual appropriations acts.
Discretionary Spending -- Spending that is generally controlled through annual
Discretionary Spending Limits (Caps) -- Ceilings on budget authority and outlays
for discretionary programs set by the Budget Enforcement Act. These spending
limits are enforced by congressional rules and sequestration procedures.
Fiscal Year -- An accounting period of twelve months duration beginning October 1
and ending September 30.
Full Funding -- Appropriating all the funds in one year necessary to complete a
project. A policy intended to facilitate full disclosure of the total cost of
producing whatever end-item is funded.
Future Years Defense Plan (FYDP) -- The basic Department of Defense long-term
financial plan for U.S. armed forces.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) -- The total value of output produced by people,
government, and firms in the Nation, whether the firms and individuals involved
are foreign or American.
Industrial Funds -- Revolving funds providing services such as equipment
overhauls and transportation to DOD military components.
Inflation Dividend -- Excess funds in the Department of Defense's budget due to
lower than expected inflation.
Joint Strategic Planning Document (JSPD) -- DOD planning document prepared
by the Joint Chiefs of Staff office in order to provide support to the Secretary of
Defense in preparing the Defense Planning Guidance.
Major Force Program (MFP) -- The most general category in the Department of
Defense budget used for internal programming and budgeting purposes. The 11
MFPs are: Strategic Forces; General Purpose Forces; Command, Control,
Communication, Intelligence & Space; Mobility Forces;. Guard & Reserve
Forces; Research & Development; Central Supply & Maintenance; Training,
Medical and Other General Personnel Activities; Adminstration & Associated
Activities; Support of Other Nations and Special Operations Forces. The basic
building blocks of the MFPs are "program elements" -- collections of weapons,
manpower, and support equipment.
Management Funds -- Special funds authorized by law to credit collections from
two or more appropriations to finance activity not involving a continuing cycle
of business activity.
Mandatory Spending -- See "direct spending."
Mark-Up -- The process of approving, amending, or rejecting provisions in
proposed legislation undertaken by members of a committee or subcommittee.
National Defense Budget Function -- One of the major functions of the federal
budget. Identified by the numerical notation 050. It consists of the Department
of Defense (DOD) budget (051), which funds all direct DOD military programs,
the defense-related activities of the Department of Energy (053), and other
defense-related activities (054).
Nominal Growth -- A measure of the change over time in an appropriation or
actual spending for a given program in current prices, not excluding inflation.
Nominal growth measures both program growth and the effect of price changes
Obligation -- A commitment of funds created when a federal agency awards a
contract, places an order, receives a service, or the like. Requires outlays at
some future time. Budget authority is normally obligated before it is spent.
Out-Years -- Years beyond the budget year.
Outlays -- Money spent by a federal agency from funds provided by Congress.
Outlays in a given fiscal year are the result of obligations and have two sources:
funds provided by Congress in the current fiscal year and funds provided by
Congress in prior fiscal years.
Planning, Programming, and Budgeting System (PPBS) -- The formalized
process used by the Department of Defense to plan, program, and budget for
U.S. armed forces.
Program Decision Memoranda (PDMs) -- Formal decisions of the Defense
Resource Planning Board governing funding for programs in the biennial DOD
Program Objective Memoranda (POMs) -- Detailed list of proposed programs
prepared by each of the military departments to cover a six-year period as part
of the Planning, Programming, and Budgeting System.
Progress Payments -- Payments issued to defense contractors as work progresses
in multi-year contracts.
Real Growth -- A measure of the change over time (increase or decrease) in an
appropriation or actual spending for a given program after the effect of price
changes (inflation) has been eliminated. In budget parlance, real growth can be
positive or negative.
Reprogramming -- A shift of funds from one program to another within the DOD
budget. Some reprogramming actions require congressional notification and
approval. Others require only congressional notification. Still others are
permitted without congressional notification or approval.
Rescission -- The cancellation of budget authority provided by Congress before the
authority would otherwise lapse. A rescission proposal from the President must
be approved by both Houses of Congress to become effective.
Revolving Funds -- An accounting entity in which all income is in the form of
receipts derived from operations and for which funds remain available in their
entirety to finance a continuing cycle of operations. Examples are stock funds
and industrial funds.
Sequester or Sequestration -- The withholding from obligation and expenditure
and the subsequent cancellation of new budget authority, new loan guarantee
commitments, new direct loan obligations, and spending authority, and the
reduction of obligation limitations.
Spend-Out Rate -- The rate at which appropriated funds are converted to outlays.
It varies with each program. For example, appropriated funds for procurement
programs spend out at a relatively slow rate because it takes considerable time
to produce a major weapon system.
Supplemental Appropriations Act -- An act appropriating funds in addition to
those provided in regular annual appropriations acts.
Total Obligational Authority (TOA) -- A financial accounting term unique to
DOD,describing the value of the direct defense program for a fiscal year. TOA
is equivalent to the sum of all budget authority granted by Congress, plus
amounts from other sources authorized to be credited to certain accounts, plus
unobligated balances of funds from prior years which remain available for
obligation. TOA will differ from budget authority for a given year because of
rescissions, reappropriations, new offsetting receipts, and unused budget
Transfer of Funds -- A shift of funds from one program to another in a different
budget account -- referred to as reprogramming in DOD.
Transition Quarter (TQ) -- The three-month period in 1976 from July 1 through
September 30 between the end of FY 1976 (based on the old definition of the
fiscal year) and the beginning of FY 1977 (based on the new system).
Frequently labeled "197T" or "TQ" in budget documents.
Trust Funds -- Used to carry out a business activity in accordance with a trust or
statute. They are often credited with offsetting receipts.
Unexpended Funds -- Appropriated funds that have been provided by Congress but
remain unspent, representing future outlays. Unexpended funds, whether
obligated legally or unobligated, are formally earmarked by Congress for specific
programs that have been congressionally-approved.
Unobligated Funds -- Budget authority that has been appropriated by Congress for
specific programs, but has not yet been pledged or obligated by contract.
Working Capital Funds -- Since December 1996, the Pentagon has used four
working capital funds as stock funds, industrial funds, and management funds.
They are called: the Army Working Capital Fund, the Navy Working Capital
Fund, the Air Force Working Capital Fund and Defense-Wide Working Capital
Legislative History of the Defense Budget
Original Revised Conf.
Committee Floor Committee Floor
a. The DOD authorization and appropriations acts do not cover the same programs. The major differences are that the DOD authorization act covers
civil defense, defense energy programs, and military construction,which the DOD appropriations act does not.
b. In Energy and Water Appropriations Act.
c. In HUD, Independent Agencies Appropriations Act.
d. In Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations Act.