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during the period of some 5 years when the acting Director of the Budget, Mr. Daniel W. Bell, was an important Treasury official who subsequently became Under Secretary of the Treasury. The opportunity to strip down the work of the Treasury Department to strictly fiscal functions and to set these up around a budgeting unit and a central accounting core was passed by at a time when it might have been done. Since that time the structural set-up of the Government's fiscal processes have moved in a somewhat different direction, and the Treasury Department has become more and more bogged down in its own extraneous functions and archaic methods.
Today over-all Federal budgeting, insofar as it has been developed, is organized as a part of the Office of the President. The procedural grooves through which it operates have become pretty well marked out in the direction both of the operating departments and agencies and of Congress. Relationships with the Treasury Department and with the General Accounting Office have been explored, mainly through the vehicle of committee discussions, and working arrangements, not always of the most satisfactory character, have been established. In short, budgeting at the executive office level has been generally recognized as a well-established process, and in addition it is now looked upon as being largely one of policy determination rather than of routine performance. Indeed, its chief justification for remaining in this position depends upon how far the Budget Bureau can get away from the purely routine and so shape its structure as to devote its efforts in the future to the development of broad fiscal policies.
Bureau's Position Under the President
There are advantages, to be sure, in operating the Budget Bureau directly under the President, but there are also handicaps. Among the latter may be mentioned the fact that the Bureau is more or less separated from the other top-level fiscal processes of the Executive branch of the Government, assuming that these processes continue to be located mainly in the Treasury where they are at the present time. Under the existing arrangement the Bureau is not able to introduce its budgetary problems into Cabinet discussions, with a member of the Cabinet to champion its findings. It can only get Cabinet-level consideration of these problems when the President wishes to take them up at Cabinet meetings.
If the President is lacking in his appreciation of the weight and significance of budgeting, the Bureau's efforts will not be properly presented and defended either to the administrative heads or to Congress. By being a staff agency of the President, the Bureau also runs the risk of congressional criticisms on the ground of biased findings in support of the President's stand on budgetary issues.
On the other hand, there is a great advantage to the Bureau's direct association with the President when the latter takes the leadership in developing budgetary policies and programs and in presenting them in a telling manner before Congress. Nothing can quite compensate in the field of budgeting for presidential appreciation and understanding of the problems and implications of fiscal planning. Without these qualities in the President, any budget unit, wherever placed and however directed, is seriously handicapped.
Stronger Departmental Budget Officers Needed
The weakest link in the present budgetary structure of the Government, and this goes for accounting and reporting as well as for budgeting, is the departmental and agency budget offices. Only a few of these offices are properly and ably staffed at the present time. Since they should be equipped to do the basic budget work, it has already been suggested that these offices might be strengthend by loaning or transferring to them members of the Budget Bureau's staff. If more of the detailed budget work can be pushed back to the departmental level, as it should be, the need for Bureau staff will be correspondingly decreased and members will be available for transfer.
Another step which might very well be taken is to designate an accountable officer in each operating department or agency who would be responsible for the financial operations involved in both budgeting and accounting. Such an officer should be a high-ranking civil servant in the department or agency he represents; he should not be a political official of limited term, or a person so far down in the ranks as not to be able to carry the responsibility which the office entails. The accountable officer would coordinate budgeting, accounting, fiscal control, and financial reporting at the departmental level; he would see that the budget estimates are properly constructed and that the budget authorizations are executed according to the departmental program, and he would defend the departmental actions to the Budget Bureau and before the congressional committees. If congressional audits or investigations found his department at fault in its fiscal operations, he would take the gaff in such proceedings and would be penalized according to the law.
Certain proposals have recently emanated from Congress with the idea of making the findings of the Budget Bureau more readily available to the appropriations and other committees of that body. One proposal has called for the exchange of information between the Bureau staff and the congressional staffs, especially those working on appropriation requests. It is likely that some arrangement could be worked out along this line which would be satisfactory from the standpoints of both the Executive and Congress. It is also probable that a different type of budget presentation, such as is suggested later, would answer most of the questions that congressmen now have in mind.
Another proposal is that the Budget Bureau should be set up on a basis similar to that of the General Accounting Office and made to operate as a budget staff agency for both the President and Congress. This arrangement would mean an independent status for the Budget Bureau halfway between the executive and the legislative branches of the Government. Consequently it could hardly be satisfactory from either the presidential or the congressional points of view. It would mean virtually stripping the President of a budget staff, without which he would not be able to prepare a budget for submission to Congress. At the same time, it would mean setting up an independent budget staff for Congress, which its committees would not be able to control or use any more successfully than they are now able to control or use the General Accounting Office.
CONGRESSIONAL AIDS IN REVIEWING THE BUDGET
AND AUTHORIZING THE APPROPRIATIONS
Congress is confronted with a stupendous task when it comes to reviewing the budget materials which are annually presented to it or to its appropriate committees. There is a huge budget document submitted early in January which contains the President's budget recommendations—the 1948–49 document ran to 1,534 quarto pages. There is also budget information supplied in written form to the committees by the departments and agencies and presented orally at the hearings, which covers several thousands of typed and printed pages. In addition, when the requests are reduced to the form of appropriations, there are a dozen or more appropriation bills, totaling over 600 quarto pages and containing thousands of separate items.
And this is not all that Congress is supposed to review in connection with the annual budget. The Government Corporation Control Act of 1945 required the President to transmit to Congress as a part of his budget, a financial program for each wholly owned Government corporation, of which there are about 40. The Employment Act of 1946 created a Council of Economic Advisers and required the President to submit to Congress each January an economic report containing a program for promoting maximum employment, production, and purchasing power. The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 amended the Senate and House rules to require the preparation by four congressional committees of an annual “legislative budget” to serve as an over-all guide for congressional action on the President's budget.
A mere recital of these facts would seem to indicate that Congress is greatly in need of substantial aids in reviewing the budget estimates and in authorizing the appropriations. The Legislative Reorganization Act, noted above, authorized additional staff for the appropriations committees, strengthened the legislative reference service of the Library of Congress, and directed the General Accounting Office to make expenditure analyses to enable Congress to determine whether public funds were being economically expended. But these arrangements are not enough; indeed, they represent only a beginning.
Congress, it seems, is in need of at least four additional aids:
1. The ready interchange of plans, ideas, and information with respect to the budget and related matters on an informal basis between the President and his budget staff and the appropriate members and committees of Congress and their staffs.
2. A different timing of budget submission to Congress so as to permit better estimating and to establish executive responsibility for budget recommendations upon the inauguration of a new President.
3. The complete recasting of the present budget document and supporting information to put them on the basis of a real program or performance budget.
4. A revision of the appropriation structure and period of availability to permit better congressional control and at the same time to promote administrative direction and supervision.
Interchange of Budget Ideas on Informal Basis
One of the great advantages of parliamentary government from the standpoint of budgeting is that the executive who prepares the budget is subsequently present on the floor of parliament to take part in the discussion of the budget. All the facts used by the executive and the plans developed in the formulation of the budget may be laid before the members of parliament in the defense of the budget. Compared with this informative procedure, our Congress and its appropriations, finance, and ways and means committees, flounder around for weeks in the maze of printed budget figures submitted by the President and the administrative agencies. The astonishing thing is that Congress is able in the end to come up with any satisfactory appropriation or tax measures. The fact that it does so suggests that frequently it succeeds in spite of rather than with the help of the present system.
There is great need to break down the stand-offishness that exists between the White House and Capitol Hill on the budget. It often persists regardless of the political complexion of majorities in Congress, as it did during most of the Roosevelt Administration. Although Mr. Hoover had insisted on presenting to Congress a budget which was comprehensive on the expenditure side and contained definite recommendations on the revenue side, Mr. Roosevelt usually sent to Congress a budget which was incomplete on the expenditure side and which did not present any revenue proposals. The development of revenue proposals, Mr. Roosevelt held, was not his responsibility but rather that of Congress, although the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 specifically required the President (section 202) to “make recommendations to Congress for new taxes, loans, or other appropriate action to meet the estimated deficiency.” This is certainly not the kind of cooperation between the Executive and Congress which is calculated to promote good budgeting.
In several States the governor follows the practice of consulting with key members of the legislature, particularly those on the appropriations committees, regarding the major policy issues of his budget. He often secures their reactions to these issues without