Crosscut Budgets in Ecosystem Restoration Initiatives: Examples and Issues for Congress
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
In the last 30 years, the United States has devoted enormous effort and committed billions of
dollars toward restoring large ecosystems such as the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes. These
ecosystem restoration initiatives generally address multiple objectives that go beyond restoring
the ecosystem, such as water conveyance and levee stability. Consequently, these initiatives
involve many stakeholders conducting and implementing a variety of restoration activities and
other projects. Coordinating and overseeing the implementation and funding of such projects and
activities can be challenging, and sometimes controversial. To address the complexity of
organizing, managing, and implementing ecosystem restoration initiatives, some agencies
involved in restoration initiatives have implemented crosscut budgets.
At its most basic level, a crosscut budget is often used to present budget information from two or
more agencies whose activities are targeted at a common policy goal or related policy goals.
Crosscut budgets can assist in making data from multiple agencies more understandable, and
could be used to inform congressional oversight committees, participating agencies, and
stakeholders implementing an ecosystem initiative. A crosscut budget may also be used to track
program accomplishments, measure progress towards achieving program goals, or compare
activities conducted by various agencies aimed at the same goal.
When designing a crosscut budget, there are several potential elements that can be considered,
including the scope of the crosscut, or which types of programs and activities should be included
in the crosscut; levels of aggregation within the crosscut; stages of funding tracked by the
crosscut (e.g., appropriations or outlays); time frame covered; timing of submission and updates;
assigning responsibility for gathering the data for the crosscut; and tracking progress of
restoration activities and projects.
The variability in the design and implementation of crosscut budgets for ecosystem restoration
initiatives generates several design questions. For example, some believe that funding amounts
should be portrayed in relation to progress toward achieving restoration goals. Other issues
include determining what programs to include or exclude in a crosscut budget, assigning
accountability, and coordinating projects in an ecosystem restoration initiative.
Crosscut budgets can help address coordination and organizational issues in restoration
initiatives. Some contend that expanding their breadth to track progress or evaluate success in
restoration initiatives may make them more effective. Others, however, suggest that if crosscuts
become too unwieldy and complex, or are not designed to address the needs of specific audiences
and stakeholders, they may not communicate information in an effective and timely manner.
Introduc tion ..................................................................................................................................... 1
Potential Elements of a Crosscut Budget........................................................................................2
Purposes, Stakeholders, and Audiences....................................................................................2
Potential Crosscut Budget Elements.........................................................................................3
Defining Crosscut Scope.....................................................................................................3
Levels of Aggregation in Tracking Funding.......................................................................4
Stages of Funding...............................................................................................................4
Time Frame Covered..........................................................................................................5
Timing Requirements of Submissions and Updates...........................................................5
Data Accuracy, Consistency, and Responsibility................................................................5
Examples of Crosscut Budgets for Ecosystem Restoration.............................................................6
Everglades Crosscut Budget......................................................................................................7
CALFED Bay-Delta Program Crosscut Budget........................................................................8
Crosscut Budget: Issues for Congress.............................................................................................9
Accountability ........................................................................................................................... 9
Project Management Approach..........................................................................................11
Outputs and Intermediate Outcomes.................................................................................12
Funding as Proxy Indicator...............................................................................................12
Coordinati on ................................................................................................................... ......... 14
Conclusion ..................................................................................................................................... 14
Figure 1. Difficulty of Associating Activities and Funding with Outcomes of Interest................10
Author Contact Information..........................................................................................................14
In the last 30 years, the United States has devoted enormous effort and committed billions of
dollars toward restoring large ecosystems such as the Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes, the
Florida Everglades, and the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers Delta
(California Bay-Delta). These initiatives generally cover large areas in one or more states and
affect millions of people. Ecosystem restoration in a policy context has gone beyond just
restoring the natural environment, and encompasses other objectives such as improving water
supply and conveyance, managing natural resources, and restoring endangered species. Because
of these wide-ranging objectives, large-scale ecosystem restoration initiatives involve many
stakeholders, including federal, state, and local agencies and private and nongovernmental
organizations. Most of the large-scale ecosystem restoration initiatives are ongoing, and many
decision makers evaluate their progress (or lack thereof) to uncover lessons learned and
Congress plays a key role in large-scale ecosystem restoration efforts. Congress is generally
responsible for authorizing federal agency involvement in restoration efforts and establishing
guidelines for managing and implementing ecosystem restoration projects. Congress is also
interested in the progress of ecosystem restoration initiatives because many restoration activities
and projects are funded by federal appropriations. Congressional oversight of ecosystem
restoration initiatives has generated questions on the status of restoration initiatives, such as what
projects or activities are included in a restoration initiative, whether there is overlap among
projects and activities, whether funds are being used efficiently, and the extent to which a
restoration initiative is progressing towards its goals. Answers to these questions sometimes
generate criticism from some observers. They contend that some restoration initiatives are loosely 1
coordinated and organized, and lack comprehensive plans and tools for measuring progress. To
temper some of these criticisms and address congressional concerns, some agencies implementing
ecosystem restoration initiatives have proposed and constructed what have been called crosscut
budgets. Federal laws have authorized crosscut budgets for ecosystem restoration initiatives,
including the California Bay-Delta restoration initiative (CALFED; P.L. 108-361, §106) and the
Great Lakes restoration initiative (P.L. 110-161; Title VII, §744).
In the context of ecosystem restoration, a crosscut budget is typically a document that organizes
and reports the activities and funding of several entities working within the same broad initiative 2
in a way that “cuts across” organizational boundaries. The primary purpose of a crosscut budget
is to characterize and organize funding for an initiative in one document in a timely manner that
1 For example, see U.S. General Accounting Office, Great Lakes: An Overall Strategy and Indicators for Measuring
Progress Are Needed to Better Achieve Restoration Goals, GAO-03-515 (Washington, DC: Apr. 2003), and U.S.
Government Accountability Office, Chesapeake Bay Program, Improved Strategies Are Needed to Better Assess,
Report, and Manage Restoration Progress, GAO-06-96 (Washington, DC: Oct. 2005). Concerns about coordination of
federal government natural resources-related activities are not new. A 1949 report from what became known as the
First Hoover Commission focused, for example, on how several federal agencies undertook activities related to water
development. See U.S. Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government, Concluding Report
(Washington: GPO, May 1949), pp. 27-29.
2 In other policy areas, crosscut budgets also sometimes bridge several related activities and initiatives, even if they are
not explicitly called crosscut budgets. For example, Sec. 889 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-296; 116
Stat. 2250; codified at 31 U.S.C. § 1105) required the President to submit, as part of the President’s annual budget
proposal to Congress, a crosscut of funding “that contribute[s] to homeland security,” broken out by budget function,
agency, and “initiative area.”
is useful for decision makers. For example, the crosscut budget for the Florida Everglades
restoration initiative lists funding and provides a description of federal and state activities
contributing toward restoration. A crosscut budget can be developed and organized in several
ways. It could be a document that goes into considerable detail, or, alternatively, a crosscut
budget could simply present budget and other information in a table or spreadsheet format.
Characteristics of a more comprehensive crosscut budget might include, for example, how much
has been spent (and under what authority) for projects, what has been accomplished with the
funds, how much is left to be implemented and the cost of doing so, and proposed milestones for
the next round of funding. Conceivably, a crosscut budget could also track a restoration
initiative’s overall progress, provide transparency about coordination of the initiative’s activities,
and function as a coordinating and oversight document for Congress, relevant federal, state, and
local agencies, and other stakeholders.
Crosscut budgets do not answer all of the criticisms of how large-scale ecosystem restoration
initiatives are planned and implemented. For example, although they are typically used to show
budgetary allocations across organizational boundaries, crosscut budgets often do not present
information about desired outcomes or programmatic impacts. They may provide stakeholders,
however, with a tool for organizing, planning, and working with funds and goals for these
initiatives, albeit at a cost in terms of requiring additional analytical work and executive attention
by participating agencies, which are typically scarce commodities. This report discusses typical
and potential elements of a crosscut budget, provides examples of enacted legislation that
authorizes the use of crosscut budgets, and examines some crosscut budgeting issues that
Congress might consider.
At its most basic level, a crosscut budget is often used to present budget information from two or
more agencies whose activities are targeted at a common policy goal or, alternatively, related
policy goals. This can assist in making data from multiple agencies more understandable (e.g.,
putting levels of effort into perspective, showing how different efforts relate to each other) and
might be used as a tool for congressional oversight committees, participating agencies, and
stakeholders implementing an ecosystem restoration program or initiative. A crosscut budget may
be used to track program accomplishments, measure progress toward achieving program goals, or
compare activities conducted by various agencies aimed at the same goal.
Creating a crosscut budget for a complex ecosystem restoration initiative, such as that in the
Everglades, can be challenging. On one level, getting multiple agencies to construct a budget
together or to cooperate closely can be difficult, given competing demands for the attention of
agency leaders and scarce analytical resources in budget and programmatic staffs. Indeed,
compelling multiple agencies to work together might be part of the goal of requiring a crosscut
budget, insofar as a crosscut budget requires communication and might facilitate broader
coordination of efforts. On another level, creating useful crosscut budget information can be
challenging because stakeholders have different needs and no one format will necessarily be
helpful to all. Creating (or requiring) a crosscut budget, therefore, could involve (1) deciding the
purpose(s) for which, and the audience(s) for whom, the crosscut budget is intended; (2)
balancing the need for brevity to make the crosscut useful, while still including sufficient project
data to track funding and progress; and (3) ensuring there is sufficient analytical capacity within
participating agencies to produce quality information.
There is no standard design for a crosscut budget. The design depends on the questions to be
answered, the audience to be served, and the desired extent of coordination among agencies.
Crosscut budgets usually are designed to track funding. However, sometimes they are viewed as a
tool for organizing and tracking the progress of complex program elements, planning for the
implementation of future activities, and helping to establish a framework for conducting program
evaluations. When designing a crosscut budget, questions to consider include:
• How closely related to the overall program goal must an activity be to be
included in the crosscut budget? Tracking funds for large-scale ecosystem
restoration initiatives is complex, because there are rarely any definitions of what
types of activities and programs should be included (and excluded).
• At what levels should funding be tracked: by project, by agency, by multiple
measures, by overall program goal, or by some other measure?
• Should funding be tracked using appropriations, obligations, or outlays? Should
in-kind contributions, private funding, or other non-budgetary efforts (e.g.,
regulatory changes) be represented somehow?
• How many years should a crosscut budget cover (e.g., retrospectively, currently,
• Should a crosscut budget track progress in achieving policy and programmatic
outcomes, as well as funding? If so, which evaluation techniques should be used
to measure progress of a restoration initative?
• Congress may consider whether crosscut budgets should be submitted to
Congress; if so, how often?
• What entity should be tasked with producing the crosscut budget? In making that
choice, would there be implications for data accuracy, comprehensiveness, or
The following paragraphs describe potential elements of crosscut budgets and discuss how they
might be used in the context of ecosystem restoration initiatives.
A crosscut budget attempts to capture funding related to overall program purposes and goals.
Because a crosscut may involve multiple federal, state, and local agencies, it is typically
important to have criteria that determine which projects and programs a crosscut budget will
track. Deciding on criteria for inclusion may be difficult, however, because there are many ways
to categorize funding, and different agencies may have different definitions of whether a project
or activity is “related” fully or partially to a program goal. The criteria that are used will
determine whether the crosscut budget captures funding that is directly related (including all
projects and programs specifically authorized to achieve one or more ecosystem restoration goals)
or indirectly related (inclusive of all projects and programs that affect or support the restoration 3
goal, regardless of their primary purposes or authorization). Each perspective may be useful,
depending on what the crosscut budget is intended to capture. Once categories are defined,
maintaining consistent definitions will ideally allow projects, programs, and funding to be
compared reliably from year to year.
Funding categories may be tracked at various levels of aggregation or disaggregation, each of
which has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on stakeholder needs. For example,
tracking funding by program goal will show the level of effort over time dedicated to each goal.
Because some activities might make impacts upon several goals, tracking by goal is oftentimes
imprecise. (See “Tracking Progress,” below.) Tracking funding at the individual project level may
be more useful for some stakeholders, but unwieldy for others when the number of projects is
large or complexity becomes an issue. A complication often arises when some activities are
reorganized or packaged together differently, making it difficult to compare funding from year to
Funding may be tracked in terms of appropriations, obligations, and outlays.4 These terms
describe different stages in the expenditure of federal funds and are in some ways similar to the
stages of using a credit card. Appropriations provide budget authority that limits how much an
agency can spend (like a credit card limit); obligations occur when agencies enter into contracts
or otherwise are legally liable to pay for goods and services (similar to signing a credit card
receipt); and outlays occur when funds are expended to fulfill obligations (like paying a credit 5
card bill). Within each of these categories, it may be necessary for some stakeholders to track the
fiscal year in which funds were authorized (especially funds that are available to be expended for
periods longer than a year, such as multi-year and no-year funds). Because the stages are
chronological, obligations and outlays from an appropriation may or may not occur in the same
fiscal year as the appropriation. That is, an FY2003 appropriation may or may not be fully
obligated and outlayed in FY2003. For example, an account that pays for salaries may obligate all
of its FY2003 appropriation in FY2003. In this case, measuring the obligations in FY2003 would
provide a reliable measure of the effort in paying salaries. In contrast, a construction account may
not obligate or outlay all of its FY2003 appropriation in FY2003, because construction projects
are typically multi-year efforts that often use multi-year funds instead of funds available for only
a year (annual funds). In this case, obligations and outlays are not directly comparable to annual
appropriations, and it is possible that obligations and outlays for some activities will contain
funds from more than one appropriation. This challenge is compounded when tracking different
programs, many of which expend funds at different rates in multiple agencies.
3 For an example of the latter, large-scale restoration initiatives receive indirect benefits from nationwide programs that
have large budgets, such as agricultural conservation programs and water infrastructure construction programs, among
4 For definitions and more extensive explanation of these terms, see U.S. Government Accountability Office, A
Glossary of Terms Used in the Federal Budget Process, GAO-05-734SP (Washington, DC: Sept. 2005).
5 The level of obligations and outlays depend on the rate at which agencies expend funds from their available budget
authority, which in turn depends on the rate at which activities supported by the appropriation require funding.
It is necessary to define which years of funding will be included in the crosscut budget. Often,
funding is tracked from program inception, or from some milestone date at which the federal
government formally recognized the program. Historical information can also be useful, if related
activities may have occurred in the past. As noted earlier, data from earlier years may not be
directly comparable to recent data simply because agencies may not have categorized programs
or organized budget-related data in a consistent manner over time. Annual crosscut budgets may
also be helpful in years when consolidated appropriations laws are passed. Information would be
available in one document as opposed to being spread out throughout a law or explanatory
statement, or hidden under a larger program.
Congress might decide whether crosscut budgets must be submitted to Congress and, if so, when
and how frequently they must be submitted. For example, requiring submission of a crosscut
budget concurrently with the President’s annual budget request may seem logical. However,
many agencies do not determine their allocations for individual programs within a budget account
until four to six weeks (or longer) after the President’s request is submitted, so agency data may
be adjusted after submission of the President’s budget. Therefore, the time frame for submitting
the crosscut budget may affect the accuracy or currency of the data. Also, state fiscal years and
budget cycles often differ from federal budget time frames, and the crosscut budget may need to
account for any such differences. A crosscut budget that comes out very late in the fiscal year,
however, may not be useful for Congress as it considers federal appropriations bills. Requiring
periodic updates (e.g., quarterly) might address many of these complications and compel
participating agencies to coordinate more closely throughout the year, but at increased cost in
terms of reporting requirements.
Accurate budget data are necessary for a compiling a crosscut budget. Both state and federal data
would need to be linked to agency-wide budget accounts, therefore, to ensure data accuracy.
Furthermore, without some coordination or centralized effort, data submitted by various parties
might be provided in inconsistent formats or using inconsistent definitions. One option to address
data consistency (and corresponding accuracy) may be to assign responsibility for the crosscut
budget to a single federal agency. Some potential disadvantages of this option are that the
assigned federal agency may not receive timely data submission from other agencies; that it may
not have good access to non-federal sources of data; and that it may not be able to evaluate the
accuracy of data from all sources. A second option may be to place responsibility for a crosscut
budget with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Involving OMB can bring an
initiative under greater White House control, as opposed to agency control, which might or might
not have implications for how information is presented and perceived (e.g., the White House
perspective versus an agency’s perspective, which can differ). Nevertheless, OMB might not have
access to data from non-federal sources. A third option is to place responsibility for the crosscut 6
budget with an intergovernmental task force. This may facilitate access to more sources of data,
6 For example, the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force is responsible for the Everglades restoration
crosscut budget. See http://www.sfrestore.org/, accessed Mar. 29, 2007, for more information.
and increase coordination, but the taskforce may have less authority or influence (e.g., to enforce
accuracy, consistency, or prevent bias) and technical budget knowledge than either a single
federal agency or OMB.
The progress of ecosystem restoration initiatives has been assessed from two perspectives. First,
an assessment of progress can reflect whether a restoration initiative is implementing its projects
and activities. In the Everglades, for example, many judge the progress of the restoration
initiative based on the implementation of component restoration projects. There are 68 projects
that constitute the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), of which 20 were
authorized in the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-541, §601; WRDA 2000).
Seven years after the enactment of WRDA 2000, Congress authorized two additional projects.
Many argued that the delay in authorizing additional projects under CERP constituted a lack of
progress in the restoration initiative. A second method for assessing progress is by measuring
whether projects and activities are accomplishing overall restoration goals. Under the CALFED
restoration initiative (P.L. 108-361, §106), progress is sometimes viewed in terms of how
objectives (e.g., levee integrity and surface storage capacity) are being reached. Progress is
mandated by law to proceed in a balanced manner. How to measure balanced progress, however
is not clear. For objectives that are not quantifiable, sometimes indicators that represent the goals
of the restoration initiative could be measured to estimate progress. If the indicator or set of
indicators improves under a goal, positive progress would be reported. Typically, crosscut budgets
for restoration initiatives have not included information that tracks the progress of ecosystem 7
restoration efforts. Further discussion on how crosscut budgets can incorporate measures of
progress is provided later in this report.
The Everglades and CALFED ecosystem restoration initiatives submit crosscut budgets annually.
Their crosscut budget documents share similarities, but differ with respect to the characteristics of
their programs. Both crosscut budgets may provide Congress with ideas on how to tailor a
crosscut budget for a restoration initiative, and provide a precedent for authorizing the use of 8
7 Overall progress of a program is sometimes addressed in an annual report, which is separate from a crosscut budget.
This report generally will describe the activities being done for the current fiscal year and sometimes for the following
year. For the Everglades restoration initiative, a progress report is written every five years.
8 For more information on the Everglades restoration program, see CRS Report RS20702, South Florida Ecosystem
Restoration and the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, by Pervaze A. Sheikh and Nicole T. Carter. For
information on the CALFED restoration initiative, see CRS Report RL31975, CALFED Bay-Delta Program: Overview
of Institutional and Water Use Issues, by Pervaze A. Sheikh and Betsy A. Cody.
The Everglades crosscut budget describes activities to be funded by the President’s budget 9
request and provides a brief description and some context for agency programs. The Everglades
crosscut budget is produced by the staff of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force,
which coordinates the activities of its federal, state, tribal and local members that implement
Everglades restoration programs. The authorization for the crosscut budget is in the Water 10
Resources Development Act of 1996 (WRDA 1996; P.L. 104-303, §528(f)).
The Everglades crosscut budget tracks annual appropriations for programs within the Army Corps
of Engineers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and agencies of the U.S.
Department of the Interior (DOI), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), located within the U.S. Department of Commerce. It
also provides information on state programs and appropriated and requested state funding for the
same time frame, although it notes that the state fiscal year differs from the federal fiscal year.
County and local funding is not included in this crosscut budget. The annual Everglades crosscut
budget includes enacted appropriation levels from some previous fiscal years.
There is no information on overall milestones and progress toward Everglades ecosystem 11
restoration in this crosscut budget, and little linkage between funding and milestones. The
budget does not attempt to track progress or how much total funding has been allocated to a
project or is needed to finish the project. Other reports associated with the restoration initiative
attempt to track progress toward meeting restoration goals, including a progress report that is 12
required not less than every five years from October 2005.
The Everglades crosscut budget has two categories. The first includes programs specifically
authorized in the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 (WRDA 2000; P.L. 106-541, Title
VI, §601) for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. The second includes programs and
projects separate from WRDA 2000 that directly affect restoration program goals, as well as
overhead funding in some agencies (such as operational expenses for national parks in the region)
that may indirectly affect program goals. Although the criteria for inclusion in the first category
are clear, the budget documents do not state why the second category includes overhead funding
for some agencies and not others. The funding totals in the crosscut budget are associated with a
detailed description of the projects funded (including a description and location of the project)
and funds matched to individual projects within a program in several cases. Unique to this
crosscut budget is the reporting of specific funds from nationwide programs that apply to the
Everglades ecosystem. For example, funding from the USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives
Program (EQIP) for the Everglades ecosystem is given. EQIP is a nationwide program that
provides financial and technical assistance to farmers for implementing soil and water
Since the inception of the Everglades crosscut budget there has been discussion about the utility
of the budget. Some contend that the budget is a useful tool for organizing and reporting both
9 The Everglades crosscut budget is authorized in P.L. 104-303, §528(f)(1)(I).
10 This statute authorizes the task force to prepare an integrated financial plan and a biennial report to Congress
detailing activities and progress made toward restoration goals.
11 This crosscut budget can be found at http://www.sfrestore.org/documents/index.html, accessed Mar. 29, 2007.
12 P.L. 106-541, §601(l).
federal and state funding totals annually. Some others, however, state that the timing of the
budget document release is not useful for the federal appropriations cycle. The crosscut budget is
usually released at the beginning of each fiscal year with the previous year’s data. For example,
the FY2008 request for funding and FY2007 funding totals were not available until January 2008,
which was after the FY2008 funding deliberation in Congress.
The California Bay-Delta Program (CALFED) was initiated in 1995 to resolve water resource
conflicts in the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento/San Joaquin Rivers Delta (Bay-Delta) in
California. The program was reauthorized in 2004 with specifications for creating a crosscut
budget (P.L. 108-361, §106). The crosscut budget contains a short discussion of criteria used to
categorize projects, and includes over 80 pages of tables that identify federal and state agency
funding by program element.
The CALFED crosscut budget is produced annually and includes the Administration’s request for
federal funds for the upcoming fiscal year, and previous fiscal year funding for federal and state
agencies involved in the initiative. Included are funds for projects or programs conducted by
federal agencies such as the Corps, EPA, and agencies under the DOI and USDA.
Although funding for each federal and state agency was organized by CALFED program
elements (e.g., water quality, conveyance), no other evaluations or measures of progress toward
restoration goals or linkages between funding and restoration milestones are included. A separate
annual report that tracks the progress and the status of the CALFED components is also required
(P.L. 108-361, §105). This report provides a summary of the accomplishments and future
activities within each of the components of the program. The annual report does not contain
funding information or descriptions of individual projects and activities, which are found in the
The CALFED crosscut budget tracks funding for activities that fall into either of two categories.
Category A programs and funds are those consistent with the CALFED Bay-Delta Program
Record of Decision and P.L. 108-361 in terms of program goals, objectives and priorities, and 13
geographical area. Category B programs and funds have related and overlapping program
objectives and a geographical area that overlaps with the CALFED solution area. Category A
programs appear to directly address CALFED elements, whereas Category B programs are
related to the elements, and may indirectly benefit them. Larger, nationwide programs such as
USDA agricultural conservation programs and EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Funds to states
are generally grouped in Category B. For the most part, descriptions of individual projects are not
included in the crosscut budget. For some projects, the funding source or authorization is
The crosscut budget is submitted to Congress by OMB and reflects a collaboration between the
EPA, DOI, Corps, and USDA. The crosscut budget states that the information submitted is the
best available, but that because some programs’ data were not complete (e.g., final grants had not
yet been awarded in some programs), the numbers could change in the future. The budget also
13 The geographical area of the program encompasses both the problem area, which is the area that includes the Legal
Delta and Suisan Bay, and the solution area, which extends beyond the problem area but lies completely within the
State of California.
stated that the organization of the data may differ from that of past or future CALFED crosscut
There have been few comments on any positive or negative aspects of the CALFED crosscut
budget. Some have suggested that its length may become unwieldy in future years if it keeps
This report concludes with a discussion of how crosscut budgets address selected issues related to
large-scale ecosystem restoration initiatives.
Congressional oversight of large-scale restoration initiatives typically generates questions on
agency responsibility and accountability for restoration programs and activities. In some cases, a
single agency or administrator cannot be identified. (For example, if the objective is improving
water quality, there may be several activities conducted under different agencies that could
improve water quality, but no one agency is responsible for achieving the objective.)
In practice, most crosscut budgets in ecosystem restoration connect specific projects to
accountable agencies, but few relate projects or activities to overall objectives, thereby making it
difficult to assign accountability for the restoration initiative to a responsible agency. Congress
could establish requirements or provide direction in order to address this issue. Some have
suggested including a separate directory within a crosscut budget that provides a lead agency to
each objective of the restoration initiative. For example, improving water quality may be assigned
to the EPA, or scientific research on restoration may be assigned to the U.S. Geological Survey
(USGS). This type of directory would only be possible if individual projects and activities could
be linked to restoration objectives. This may require the creation of a comprehensive restoration
plan, which is lacking in some current restoration initiatives.
At the same time, relating a specific project or activity (along with its funding) exclusively to a
specific goal or objective can be difficult or impossible. As noted earlier and further illustrated in
Figure 1, a single restoration activity might contribute to the achievement of multiple goals. In
the figure, activity “A” and its funding “$a” are considered (perhaps on the basis of previous
scientific studies) to influence two “outcomes of interest” (“1” and “2”), which might be
considered to be explicit programmatic goals by some stakeholders. However, without
sophisticated program evaluation techniques, it is often impossible to estimate the impact of
program activities on outcomes, compared to what would have happened without the program
activities. Furthermore, even with program evaluation techniques, it is often difficult to estimate
what proportion of any changes in an outcome (e.g., outcome “2”) are attributable to activity “A”
versus activity “B” Furthermore, the funding that supports activity “A” might not be easily
divisible into two groups exclusive to “1” and “2,” respectively. In contrast, a complex restoration
initiative might have many activities contributing toward achievement of a single goal. This can
undermine attempts to report budget information and activities in relation to only a single goal.
As an alternative, some have suggested evaluating each of the goals of a restoration initiative
based on a suite of activities, or evaluating each restoration activity based on achieving a set of
Figure 1. Difficulty of Associating Activities and Funding with Outcomes of Interest
Many contend that restoration initiatives need to track progress so that stakeholders can
determine what projects or activities are giving the “biggest bang for the buck.” Some cite
methods of evaluating and monitoring individual programs that are being done at the federal
level. For example, with enactment of the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993
(GPRA), Congress directed agencies to use evaluations and performance information to inform
the planning and operation of annual activities, as well as to think and plan strategically beyond a 14
single year. In an annual context, Congress called for agencies to provide snapshots of this
thinking and information in annual performance plans, to accompany their budget requests, and
also in annual program performance reports after a fiscal year is completed. Others suggest that
combining crosscut budgets with annual reports may provide a mechanism to track progress and
funding simultaneously. For example, the CALFED Program has an annual report with detailed
project schedules and quantitative milestones for each of its eleven elements that could be used to 15
track progress within the crosscut budget. Some options for tracking progress with certain kinds
of evaluations and metrics, including project management metrics, are outlined below.
14 P.L. 103-62; 107 Stat. 285.
15 For example, the annual CALFED report states that water supply reliability could increase to 3 million acre-feet
annually by 2010 through a combination of water conservation, water recycling, conveyance and operations
improvements, and new water storage, and it has annual figures for each of these elements that accumulate to that total.
The report also includes milestone accomplishments for 2002.
One option to track progress might be to relate funding requested for a given year to milestones
planned to be achieved in that year (i.e., within a “project management” orientation), and to place
those milestones within the overall context of the program to which it contributes. This might
allow congressional authorizers and appropriators to see what the funding is intended to
accomplish and whether project outputs are on schedule and to revisit the milestones as the
following year’s appropriation request is considered. Alternatively, if funding cannot be linked to
milestones, overall progress on achieving goals within an initiative may be rated. For example, a
program might be rated “red” for project implementation delays considered serious, “yellow” for
delays considered slight, and “green” for projects on schedule, with explanatory notes included 16
about any delays or schedule changes. Some may contend, however, that it is difficult to
smoothly link funding with project milestones for a program as multifaceted as a large-scale
ecosystem restoration initiative, since it requires detailed knowledge of each agency’s budget as
well as each agency’s projects, and would require extensive coordination among many agencies.
Some contend that one way to track progress of an ecosystem restoration initiative is to assess 17
whether it is achieving its goals, or end outcomes. Measuring the direct impact of restoration
activities on achieving end outcomes, compared to what would have happened without the
restoration activities, can be difficult. Several factors that are beyond the activities or projects
being assessed may contribute toward achieving ecosystem restoration goals (e.g., modernizing
wastewater treatment plants so that they release less toxic effluents). In order to estimate the
impact of restoration activities, after controlling for the other factors, more sophisticated 18
evaluations must often be conducted. Further, stakeholders can disagree on the most important
goals and criteria for judging “success.” This may result in progress being defined in different
ways depending on the perspectives of the stakeholders. Disagreement about goals, or relative
priorities among goals, does not necessarily compromise the tracking of progress in a crosscut
budget effort if all major perspectives are included, but selective inclusion or omission of some
perspectives could provoke claims of bias.
An alternative approach to measure progress of a restoration initiative is to measure overall
change in the ecosystem (i.e., change due to the restoration initiative and other factors). Some
managers may use indicators of ecosystem components to track the state of the ecosystem over
time. These indicators may include water clarity, population size of endangered or threatened
species, or acres of underwater seagrass in an ecosystem. Generally, these indicators are not
16 For projects that involve developing and acquiring major capital assets, a technique known as “earned value
management” (EVM) could be used to assess whether an asset is delivered according to budget, schedule, and intended
functionality. For discussion of EVM, see CRS Report RL34257, Earned Value Management (EVM) as an Oversight
Tool for Major Capital Investments, by Clinton T. Brass.
17 Many stakeholders care about what they believe should be the end outcome of an ecosystem (i.e., the state that they
desire for it). For example, some might aspire to achieve a pre-industrial state, while others might wish to maintain an
ecosystem’s current status. There will typically be many points of view on this subject. In this sense, each stakeholder
might be described as having an “end outcome” that is desired for an ecosystem. However, this report discusses “end
outcomes” in terms of the desired changes that would result from an ecosystem restoration initiative.
18 These evaluations are often called impact evaluations. For brief discussion, see U.S. Government Accountability
Office, Performance Measurement and Evaluation: Definitions and Relationships, GAO-05-739SP (Washington, DC:
directly related to restoration activities, but provide an overall context for whether, or how,
ecosystem conditions are changing over time. An example of this approach is used to measure the
condition of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. Several ecosystem indicators are measured on a
point scale annually and graded. The measurements are from 0 to 100, with a 100 representing the
state of the Chesapeake Bay at the healthiest point that can be described. Indicators are given a
letter grade based on their point total within the scale. An average of all indicators is presented as
the “state of the bay.” The indicators do not necessarily reflect restoration goals or efforts, rather
components of the ecosystem. For 2007, the Chesapeake Bay was graded at 28. Progress can also 19
be measured using this approach by comparing the point total of indicators over time. Some are
critical of this method and contend that the use of indicators that aim to measure an initiative’s
“performance” might be affected by a host of other factors in addition to the program being
considered (e.g., coastal habitat restoration can be improved by planting native species under a 20
restoration program and by changes in climate that promote plant growth). If this is widespread,
then measuring progress with indicators becomes dissociated from evaluating the progress of the
Some evaluation efforts focus on what have been called outputs and intermediate outcomes.
Specifically, these approaches could measure outputs (e.g., direct measurements of project-related
activities or efforts) and intermediate outcomes (e.g., consequences of project activities and
efforts, including progress toward goals, that are expected to lead to the ends desired but are not 21
themselves ends). In some cases, outputs (such as acres of water storage) can be directly related
to outcomes (increased water storage). In other cases, outcomes (such as raising the number of
breeding pairs of birds) may be one component of, or an intermediate outcome leading toward, a 22
desired end outcome (such as improved ecosystem health). As with end outcomes, it is often
necessary to use more sophisticated evaluations to assess the impact of a restoration initiative on
intermediate outcomes, compared to what would have happened without the restoration initiative,
because other factors might also influence what happens with the intermediate outcomes.
Funding itself could be tracked as a proxy to indicate progress in a restoration effort, if the
underlying activities have been shown to have or are widely regarded as having a high probability
of achieving the desired outcomes. Consistent levels of funding are presumed to relate to
consistent progress toward achieving the desired outcome of a project. For example, maintenance
19 For more information on the State of the Bay report, see http://www.cbf.org/site/DocServer/
2007SOTBReport.pdf?docID=10923, accessed Dec. 17, 2007.
20 See CRS Report RL33301, Congress and Program Evaluation: An Overview of Randomized Controlled Trials
(RCTs) and Related Issues, by Clinton T. Brass, Blas Nuñez-Neto, and Erin D. Williams.
21 For discussion of these terms, see Harry P. Hatry, Performance Measurement: Getting Results (Washington, DC:
Urban Institute, 1999), pp. 11-24.
22 If a restoration initiative had quantifiable output and intermediate outcome goals, it would be possible to assess the
percentage of the goals that were reached. For example, if 250,000 acres of wetlands have been created through a
program that has a goal of creating 500,000 acres of wetlands, 50% of the goal would have been achieved. These
measurements could be related to funding by reporting the amount of funds used per unit measured. If $100 million
was used to create 250,000 acres of wetlands in one fiscal year, then $400 was spent per acre toward achieving the
projects may require the same level of funds from year to year to fix annual problems. Funding
may not always be related to progress. For example, construction projects typically require little
funding in early years as preliminary studies are completed, but need more funding later when
actual construction occurs. Therefore, little funding initially and more funding later for
construction projects may indicate consistent progress towards the completion of a project.
Defining what programs should be included in an assessment of restoration activities and their
funding has been controversial for several restoration initiatives. Depending on what programs
are included in the crosscut budget, some could argue that the funding for a restoration initiative
is or is not sufficient. Including funding from nationwide programs that indirectly support
ecosystem restoration can increase funding estimates drastically. For example, the Great Lakes
Interagency Task Force estimated that $524 million is spent annually to restore water quality in
the Great Lakes. Of this amount, $314 million comes from five nationwide programs (four
agricultural conservation programs and the EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund) that do not
specifically address Great Lakes restoration as their mission. Attempts have been made to identify
funding for specific ecosystems from total funding amounts of nationwide programs, but criteria
and methodologies for distinguishing funding is unclear. For example, in some cases, funding
from national programs is organized according to county lines, which rarely correspond to
ecosystem or watershed boundaries. This discrepancy can create large variability in funding
Before determining what activities to include in a crosscut budget, some restoration initiatives
have defined the geographical area of the ecosystem and determined what activities constitute
ecosystem restoration. A defined ecosystem area is useful for determining what activities can
affect the ecosystem. For example, funding for wastewater treatment plants that are located in the
ecosystem or upstream from the ecosystem could be included in a crosscut budget. An
understanding of what is a restoration activity can help to determine what gets included in a
One approach for deciding which programs to include in a crosscut budget is to separate
programs by whether they directly or indirectly fund activities that promote restoration goals and
objectives. Direct funding for restoration usually is authorized through restoration programs that
target the ecosystem in question. Indirect funding is generally from programs that focus on one
aspect of restoration but could apply to several ecosystems (e.g., a program that monitors the
water quality of streamflows). Defining direct and indirect funding can be difficult. One option is
to determine if restoration of the ecosystem, or part of the ecosystem, is explicitly authorized in
law as a purpose of a program in question. If so, this would constitute a program that directly
funds activities for restoration. Funding for program activities that could address the restoration
of the ecosystem but are not explicitly linked to a specific ecosystem would constitute indirect
funding. The crosscut budget for CALFED uses this approach to organize and report its activities.
An alternative approach would be to include only programs or activities that are limited to the
defined area of the ecosystem. For example, funding from agricultural conservation programs
would be included in a crosscut budget only for those funds given to farmers that have farms
within the ecosystem boundaries, as opposed to the entire state or county that may include a
portion of the ecosystem. Another approach to separate indirect and direct funding would be to
classify indirect funding as funding that would exist in the absence of a restoration effort, and 23
direct funding as funding that exists because a restoration initiative is in place.
Ecosystem restoration initiatives encompass the activities of multiple stakeholders. Therefore
coordination among stakeholders and activities is important for an initiative’s success.
Coordination is often related to how an ecosystem restoration initiative is governed, and in some
initiatives, the adequacy of governance and coordination have been questioned. Problems related
to coordination include not being able to assign accountability, to determine funding gaps, or to
identify overlapping or repeating restoration activities. A crosscut budget might help address
coordination issues by listing responsible agencies with restoration objectives or activities; might
enable mangers to find funding gaps by providing a list of activities under each objective and by
reporting progress; and might prevent project overlap by including activities from all stakeholders
working at the federal, state, and local levels. A crosscut budget would likely require some
additional cost for the administrative and analytical work required to produce and maintain it.
Some who are critical of large-scale ecosystem restoration initiatives contend that some initiatives
are loosely coordinated, do not have comprehensive plans and tools for measuring progress, and
do not have defined methods for assessing funding totals. In response, some have suggested
implementing crosscut budgets as part of the reporting requirements of ecosystem restoration
initiatives. Crosscut budgets, such as those in use for restoring the Everglades and the California
Bay-Delta, address some concerns by reporting restoration activities, their funding, and federal
and state agencies responsible for the restoration. However, these crosscut budgets do not attempt
to define ecosystem restoration activities or measure progress toward the goals of the restoration
initiative as related to funding. Expanding the breadth of crosscut budgets by incorporating these
functions, according to some, will temper some criticisms of large-scale ecosystem restoration
initiatives. However, if crosscuts become too unwieldy and large, or are not designed to address
the needs of specific audiences and stakeholders, some believe that they will not communicate
information in an effective and timely manner and will result in a wasted investment of resources.
Pervaze A. Sheikh Clinton T. Brass
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy Analyst in Government Organization and
firstname.lastname@example.org, 7-6070 Management
23 U.S. Government Accountability Office, Chesapeake Bay Program, GAO-06-96 (Washington, DC: Oct. 2005).