In the rush to influence outcomes in the Congressional appropriations process, many corporations, trade and professional associations, and others are ignoring the potentials of impacting the next fiscal year which is underway within Federal departments and agencies. How many government relations strategic plans include looking ahead to “make the case” for their positions in the next funding cycle or even know that these activities are underway?
This main focus this summer in Congress and for those seeking to secure their funding priorities within federal agencies includes the Fiscal Year(FY)2020 which begins in less than four months on October 1, 2020. However requirements underway within all agencies for the FY2021 federal budget(which begins October 1,2021) is being developed by officials within the government and those keen to present their requests are identifying the right decision-makers, presenting their case and seeking to include their “line-item funding and programmatic support” for the budget that will be approved by the President and presented after his State of the Union this coming February,2020 in the beginning of the 2nd Session of the 116th Congress.
Why worry about a future budget when now is the time to impact the present funding levels? Federal budget decisions are made each year according to a well-developed internal government plan coordinated by the Office of Management and Budget(OMB) on behalf of the President and his Administration. Two key avenues for program funding and policy development for EVERY federal program are underway at the same time—the present FY2020 and the next FY2021. The following is a sample summary of the process in each agency for the next FY now underway in 2019 for the FY2021 budget:
- Spring and Summer OMB issues guidance to agencies to identify major issues, develop plans and budget projections for the coming(FY2021)year;
- By September all agencies make their budget submissions to OMB;
- October-November, OMB conducts is review analyzing budget requests and raising issues with agency personnel.
- Late November, after reviewing all budgets with the President’s officials, a month long “pass back” is offered to agencies on initial OMB decisions relative to their budget requests. Changes in this time slot are made until the budget is locked in.
- December-January, agencies may appeal a budget request to the White House but budgets are finalized(for FY2021) and begin to be prepared for submission to Congress and the public after the State of the Union.
An example of utilizing this forward thinking process in a government relations plan can be the following. An industry or corporation has a system or product or policy that needs to be approved and funded. The first step is to have it “authorized” in the appropriate authorization legislation (in the National Defense area, securing Pentagon, White House and Congressional approval of a line item in the major military bill for the year, the National Defense Authorization Act(NDAA). Next is to make sure that the funding is included in the Defense Appropriations bills. Depending on the level of support (or not) a simultaneous effort should be made to influence DoD support in the next FY cycle. This is especially true if the proposal is not met with agency or Congressional sponsorship.
The process to impact individual appropriations bills, and ultimately the amount of funds for various programs and systems desired, includes traditional government relations strategies and should be undertaken throughout the year and not just focused on one FY cycle. One can make the argument that there are three cycles underway at one time—spending for the approved,present FY (FY2019 in our case until September 30, 2019), spending for the next FY2020, beginning October 1,2019 and the creation of the next cycle, FY2021 for October 1, 2020.
Some of these major actions in this process include:
- House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearings on the FY requests.There are 24 Subcommittees that hold public hearings,ask Administration witnesses and request details on each department and agency budget requests. One of the key documents for detailed review by knowledgeable appropriations “influencers of Congress” are agency Budget Justification Books that detail what the Administration requests.
- Funding subcommittee markups to consider creating the appropriations bills with its accompanying Subcommittee Reports that detail what Congress decides(in both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees)on policy and funding levels. Professionals focus in this phase to impact not just the underlining bill, but in the House to review and influence the proposed amendments presented by House Members to the Rules Committee which in some cases can be hundreds of requests submitted. In the Senate, following amendments offered for funding bills are most often publicized in the Congressional Record prior to the bill being taken up on the Senate floor. Again,the numbers of amendments could run into the hundreds.
- Once the appropriations bills are finalized by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and referred to their respective bodies, influence actions shift to “floor” consideration (full House and Senate)with views on Chairman “substitute language” and leadership decisions on making changes.
- The final outcome is a conference committee in which the most senior members of the Appropriations Committee(and Subcommittee)reconcile the two versions of the funding bills if different and provide additional “Report language” explaining a project or decision made.
Are you prepared for two fiscal year cycles? Are you developing implementation plans to look ahead to the next FY for overcoming defeats on requests, to upgrade present funding levels or to create new programs and funding for agency and White House support. The McKeon Group is ready and well underway in the process to achieve these objectives for clients.
Contact the author:
John Chwat, Senior VP, McKeon Group