The Appropriation Process

Article excerpt

On 17 SEPTEMBER 1787, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, our founding fathers sent to the states a document for ratification, the Constitution of the United Staes. To this day that document remains remarkably intact, having been amended only 27 times since ratification. Any discussion about the appropriation process must begin there. The Constitution directs that "the President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States."1 Further, the Constitution explains that the Congress provides the revenues for the country"All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other bills."2 the Constitution also addresses Congress's role with respect to the military. In part, that section provides that "the Congress shall have power... to raise and support armies, but no appropriate of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years."3 Out Constitution establishes the Congress as the branch of the American government responsible for providing funds for the nation's defense.

While the first Congress did not envision a separate authorization and appropriation process, it estabished the protocols by which both processes operate. Spending bills still must originate in the House. Both houses still have to agree, word for word, with what is sent to the president to be signed into law. If the president vetoes the bill, the constitutional process for overriding this veto still exists untouched. Having said all that, there remain nuances in the process to be examined and explained.

This process of appropriating funds for the national defense consists of a series of dynamic events that seldom occur exactly the same way from year to year. Certain events recur every year, but how they occur or when depends on congressional leadership, administration leadership and national events or externalities impacting Congress. The appropriate process formally begins the first Monday in February with the submission or the president's budget to Congress and ends with the president signing the Defense Appropriations Bill into law, ideally prior to the beginning of the new fiscal year on 1 October.

The article explains and provides insight into the process of appropriating funds by the Congress. The evnets that lead up to the president's signature can be generally categorized as:

Budget justification by the services

House and Senate "marks" documented on committee bills and reports.

"Heartburn" appeals and conference.

Bill signing by the president. Visually, the process is depicted by the figure on page 27.

The Army's budget is included in the publication of the president's budget after it has been carefully consideredd by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), Office of Management and Budget and the White House Budget Office. This budget provides programming and financing information for all Army appropriations, but it does not contain detailed justification materials that are necessary for the Army budget justification before Congress.

Army budget justification begins with the submission of budget-supporting information to justify or validate the Army's funding requests to Congress. All services go through this process and must coordinate with the Department of Defense. At the service level, the Army prepares and submits Budget Justification Books (J Books). These are prepared in the budget office for each appropriation with extensive support from the entire Army staff (ARSTAF) and secretariat. The appropriations covered by J Books include military personnel (pay), operations and maintenance, research and development, the five procurement accounts, military construction, environment and chemical demilitarization. US Army Reserve and Army National Guard versions of the operations and maintenance and the personnel accounts also have separate J Books.

Committee professional staffers use the J Books to conduct analyses and make recommendations to the members of the Appropriation Subcommittees on Defense and Military Construction. …