The Budget Process

This is a selective guide to resources at Columbia University Libraries and on the Internet, for conducting research on the U.S. Federal budget process. Most of the items included are available in Lehman Library.

Resources marked with this symbol are restricted to Columbia affiliates.

The budget process for the U.S. Federal government involves both the executive and legislative branches of government. The President submits a budget to Congress, which then passes legislation to actually appropriate and authorize funds to be spent. The timetable for this process is shown in the section on the Budget Calendar -- the dates are flexible, for the most part. Along the way, a variety of documents are produced, from both branches. The most important of these are cited here, but more are available on the websites of the agencies involved. The Government Printing Office (GPO) maintains a website which provides access to the most important of these documents, for both current and previous budget years.

Current Federal Budget

  • Budget of the United States Government. Annual.
    Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1938-
    Call Number: HJ 2051 .Un31
    Online versions: FY 1996-present
        A proposal issued by the President, often with various supporting appendices and tables; it indicates Presidential goals and priorities for the next fiscal year. It includes a description of the economic assumptions on which the budget is based, and detailed agency programs and expenditures. The President’s Budget is the government’s primary tool for financial planning and control. It focuses on taxpayers’ dollars the government collects, how it uses them to support programs and services, and whether this use results in a surplus or deficit.
    Highlights of President Obama's Fiscal 2014 Budget Request
    All of the latest information about FY budget items, with links to bills, briefings, hearings, votes, action reports, CQ stories, and more.
  • Status of Appropriations Bills: FY1998 - FY2014, from Thomas
  • Budget and Economic Outlook, 1975-present
  • Public Budget Database
    The Public Budget Database provides account level detail for budget authority, outlays and receipts. The data covers a period from 1976 to a five-year projection (from 1962 for outlays). This data is provided in various formats along with a user's guide.
    FY 2003, FY 2004, FY 2005, FY 2006, FY 2007, FY 2008, FY 2009, FY 2010, FY 2011, FY 2012, FY 2013, FY 2014
    The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (Transparency Act) requires a single searchable website, accessible by the public for free that includes for each Federal award:
        1. the name of the entity receiving the award;
        2. the amount of the award;
        3. information on the award including transaction type, funding agency, etc;
        4. the location of the entity receiving the award;
        5. a unique identifier of the entity receiving the award.

Descriptions of FY 2013 Federal Budget Publications

  • Budget of the U.S. Government
    Contains the Budget Message of the President, information on the President's priorities, budget overviews organized by agency, and summary tables.
  • Analytical Perspectives
    Contains analyses that are designed to highlight specified subject areas or provide other significant presentations of budget data that place the budget in perspective. This volume includes economic and accounting analyses; information on Federal receipts and collections; analyses of Federal spending; information on Federal borrowing and debt; baseline or current services estimates; and other technical presentations. The Analytical Perspectives volume also contains supplemental material with several detailed tables, including tables showing the budget by agency and account and by function, subfunction, and program, that is available on the Internet and as a CD-ROM in the printed document.
  • Historical Tables
    Provides data on budget receipts, outlays, surpluses or deficits, Federal debt, and Federal employment over an extended time period, generally from 1940 or earlier to 2013 or 2017. To the extent feasible, the data have been adjusted to provide consistency with the 2013 Budget and to provide comparability over time.
  • Appendix
    Contains detailed information on the various appropriations and funds that constitute the budget and is designed primarily for the use of the Appropriations Committees. The Appendix contains more detailed financial information on individual programs and appropriation accounts than any of the other budget documents. It includes for each agency: the proposed text of appropriations language; budget schedules for each account; legislative proposals; explanations of the work to be performed and the funds needed; and proposed general provisions applicable to the appropriations of entire agencies or group of agencies. Information is also provided on certain activities whose transactions are not part of the budget totals.

Background Information

For books about the budget process, check CLIO under the subject heading: Budget process --United States.

  • Historical Statistics of the United States: Earliest Times to the Present. 5 vols.
    New York : Cambridge University Press, c2006.
    Call Number: HA 202 .H57 2006
  • Schick, Allen.
    The Federal Budget: Politics, Policy, Process. 3rd ed.
    Washington, D.C. : Brookings Institution Press, c2007.
    Call Number: HJ 2051 .S3424 2007
  • Statistical Abstract of the United States. Annual. 1878-
    Call Number: HA202 .Un31 (Copies available in multiple locations)
  • Tomkin, Shelley Lynne.
    Inside OMB : Politics and Process in the President's Budget Office
    Armonk, N.Y. : M.E. Sharpe, c1998.
    Call Number: HJ 2051 .T63 1998
  • U.S. National Debt Clock
    It updates each time you reload the page. Plus, budget news and links to other budget-related sites.
  • U.S. Senate.
    Virtual Reference Desk: the Budget

    A collection of documents and other information which explain the budget process, committees, and resolutions.
  • Wetterau, Bruce.
    Congressional Quarterly's Desk Reference on the Federal Budget.
    Washington, D.C. : Congressional Quarterly, c1998.
    Call Number: HJ 2051 .W43 1998
        A handy guide in a question-and-answer format; includes a number of tables & charts.

Executive Budget Activity

  • Council of Economic Advisers
    The CEA primarily performs an analysis and appraisal of the national economy for the purpose of providing policy recommendations to the President.

    Major Publications:
  • Department of the Treasury
    • Financial Report of the United States Government
      The Financial Report of the United States Government, issued by the Department of the Treasury, analyzes how revenue was spent in the fiscal year on programs and services and discusses the government’s resulting financial position. Cost is reported at the time an obligation to pay arises rather than when payments are made.
    • Calculate the Public Debt to the Penny and Who Holds It, Bureau of the Public Debt
  • Office of Management and Budget
    OMB's predominant mission is to assist the President in overseeing the preparation of the Federal budget and to supervise its administration in Executive Branch agencies. In helping to formulate the President's spending plans, OMB evaluates the effectiveness of agency programs, policies, and procedures, assesses competing funding demands among agencies, and sets funding priorities. OMB ensures that agency reports, rules, testimony, and proposed legislation are consistent with the President's budget and with Administration policies.
        Each of the following publications can be found online by browsing each individual Budget of the U.S.

    Major Publications:
    • The Budget System and Concepts of the United States Government.
      Washington, DC : U.S. Office of Management and Budget, 1993.
      Call Number: PR EX 2.8/12:
    • OMB Final Sequestration Report to the President and Congress for Fiscal Year ...: Annual.
      Y 1.1/7: - Offsite
    • Mid-session Review of the Budget. Annual.
      Call Number: PR EX 2.31:

The OMB also provides information about earmarks -- funds specified for a specific project, often sponsored by the legislator in whose district or state the project is located. OMB provides an Earmarks Database to identify that type of spending.

Legislative Budget Activity

The Congressional Budget Process: A Brief Overview, Congressional Research Service, August 22, 2011

A large number of bills are introduced each session in Congress regarding appropriations and budgets. Search Thomas for bills and laws.

The Budget Calendar

Executive Budget Documents Timing & Actions Congressional Budget Documents
  9/14 --
Executive branch agencies submit initial budget requests
  10/15 --
Other agencies submit budget requests
  Nov-Dec --
Legislative & judical branches submit budget requests
  December --
CBO determines if additional cutting of spending necessary
Final Sequestration Report to the President and Congress for Fiscal Year ...:
Y 1.1/7: - U.S. Government Documents Microfiche
  December --
OMB provides estimates of the status of discretionary spending
Budget of the United States Government
HJ 2051 .Un31 - Business, Lehman
Economic Report of the President.
HC 106.5.U5 A121 - Lehman
1st Monday in February --
President transmits budget to Congress
  2/15 --
CBO reports to budget committees
Budget and Economic Outlook and Updates
Y 10.13: - U.S. Government Documents
  March Budget Options
No print version
  April Analysis of the President's Budgetary Proposals
Y 10.19: - U.S. Government Documents
  6/30 --
House completes action on appropriations bills

Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act
Y 1.1/8: - MF - U.S. Government Documents
Omnibus Appropriations Bill, October 19, 1998
Consolidated Appropriations Act FY 2000, November 17, 1999
Consolidated Appropriations Act FY 2001, December 15, 2000
Status of FY2002 Appropriations Bills,
Status of FY2003 Appropriations Bills,
Status of FY2004 Appropriations Bills,
Status of FY2005 Appropriations Bills,

Status of FY2006 Appropriations Bills, Status of FY2007 Appropriations Bills, Status of FY2008 Appropriations Bills, Status of FY2009 Appropriations Bills, Status of FY2010 Appropriations Bills,

Status of FY2011 Appropriations Bills,

Status of FY2012 Appropriations Bills

Mid-session Budget Review
PR EX 2.31: - U.S. Government Documents
July 15 --
President submits Mid-session Budget Review
Sequestration Update Report August 20 --
OMB updates sequestration review
  October 1 --
Fiscal year begins

News & Commentary

  • Cato Institute: Tax and Budget Policy
  • Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Washington, D.C.
    The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) is an independent, nonprofit public policy research institute established to promote innovative thinking about defense planning and investment strategies for the 21st century. CSBA brings databased analyses and cutting-edge assessment techniques to its research on: Military Strategy and Policy, Defense Budgets and Programs, Weapon Systems and Critical Technologies, Military Personnel and Readiness, Military Revolutions and Future Warfare, Transformation of the Military, and the Defense Industry.
    • Analysis of the FY ... Defense Budget (look down under Research: Budget & Resources)
  • Center for Effective Government (formerly OMB Watch)
  • Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
    A nonpartisan research organization and policy institute that conducts research and analysis on a range of government policies and programs, with an emphasis on those affecting low- and moderate-income people.
  • Citizens Against Government Waste
    The Congressional Pig Book exposes pork barrel spending at its worst
  • Concord Coalition: The Federal Budget
    The Concord Coalition is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization advocating fiscal responsibility while ensuring Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are secure for all generations.
  • CQ Weekly. 1969-
    Washington : Congressional Quarterly, 1969-
    Call Number: JK 1 .C15
    Contains articles and statistics on the budget and budgetary process every year.
  • Facing Up to the Nation's Finances
    The site aims to organize a non-partisan movement of citizens and leaders in honest public dialogue to call for meaningful action in confronting the various challenges to long-term fiscal stability. Among those challenges are the impending retirements of the Baby Boomers, the growth in health care costs, and the budget deficit and accumulated national debt.
  • Heritage Foundation: Budget and Spending
    The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institute -- a think tank -- whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.
  • National Journal Group's Policy Central: Budget Coverage
    Full text of the National Journal, plus bill tracking, markup reports, Congress Daily, and other resources.
  • National Priorities Project
    National Priorities Project reports on the impact of federal budget and spending priorities on the cities and states.
  • Tax Policy Center
    The Tax Policy Center is a joint venture of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution. The Center is made up of nationally recognized experts in tax, budget, and social policy who have served at the highest levels of government. TPC provides timely, accessible analysis and facts about tax policy to policymakers, journalists, citizens, and researchers.
  • Taxpayers for Common Sense: a Non-Partisan Budget Watchdog
  • Times Topics: U.S. Federal Budget, New York Times
  • Washington Post: Taxes and Spending