Center Blog

Obama Administration Focuses Last Budget To Help New Administration

May 10, 2016

Zach Piaker, Associate Manager, Partnership for Public Service

Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan issued a memo last week that directed the leaders of all departments and agencies to collect “information to help the next administration quickly produce its budget.”

Donovan said agencies should not engage in the normal budget review process with OMB this September, but instead wait until after the election so the transition team, or the incoming administration, will be in place to make critical decisions. This will permit the new administration to assess current spending levels and include its policy priorities in the budget.

Each year, the president is required to submit a budget to Congress that typically serves as a starting point for making spending decisions. Historically, outgoing presidents were required to submit a budget proposal in their final year. In 1990, the deadline was changed to “on or after the first Monday in January but not later than the first Monday in February of each year.”

Since a new president is inaugurated on January 20, an outgoing president can either submit a budget or leave the task to the new president. Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush chose to leave the budget to their successors. This scenario leaves very little time for the new president to draft and submit a budget—a daunting task, to say the least. The most recent presidential budget proposal is thousands of pages long, including appendices and summary tables.

The Donovan memo sets the stage for the next president to link the budget with the new administration’s priorities, and it continues our government’s bipartisan tradition of helping ensure a smooth transfer of presidential power. In April 2008, outgoing OMB Director Jim Nussle distributed a similar memo to the one issued by Donovan, which laid the groundwork for President Obama’s first budget that was submitted to Congress one month after he took the oath of office.


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