Budget

GAO details the high cost of continuing resolutions

money on fire

The Government Accountability Office warned senators March 13 that continuing resolutions force agency officials to divert funding from priority objectives, delay work and even lessen the quality of services -- problems observed repeatedly in the course of nearly three decades of CRs.

In past reviews, GAO found agencies deferring hiring and training, limiting how well they can inspect surveillance equipment, food and other items. Agencies struggle to oversee work to the same degree and accomplish less work under a CR because budgets are unknown.

On the procurement side, agency officials delay contracts, which affects their ability to fully compete and award them, and agencies end up cramming more acquisition work into a shorter period of time.

"Agency officials reported taking varied actions to manage inefficiencies resulting from CRs, including shifting contract and grant cycles to later in the fiscal year to avoid repetitive work," Michelle Sager, director of strategic issues at GAO, told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The committee was looking into issues related to the current budget crisis as the Senate debates the passage of another CR to fund the remainder of fiscal 2013. The House passed similar legislation March 6. The current CR expires March 27.

CRs are hardly new, of course. In all but three of the past 30 years, GAO said Congress has used CRs to provide funding until it passed final appropriations bills. Yet both the frequency and duration of those stopgap funding measures have grown in recent years, exacerbating problems for agency officials.

"Our failure in this area has likely made our government less effective and more costly for taxpayers," said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the committee’s chairman. "It has also degraded federal employee morale, created harmful ripple effects for state and local governments, and hindered efforts to help our nation’s economy as it recovers from one of the worst economic recessions in our history."

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

Rising Stars

Meet 21 early-career leaders who are doing great things in federal IT.

Featured

  • SEC Chairman Jay Clayton

    SEC owns up to 2016 breach

    A key database of financial information was breached in 2016, possibly in support of insider trading, said the Securities and Exchange Commission.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DOD looks to get aggressive about cloud adoption

    Defense leaders and Congress are looking to encourage more aggressive cloud policies and prod reluctant agencies to embrace experimentation and risk-taking.

  • Shutterstock / Pictofigo

    The next big thing in IT procurement

    Steve Kelman talks to the agencies that have embraced tech demos in their acquisition efforts -- and urges others in government to give it a try.

  • broken lock

    DHS bans Kaspersky from federal systems

    The Department of Homeland Security banned the Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab’s products from federal agencies in a new binding operational directive.

  • man planning layoffs

    USDA looks to cut CIOs as part of reorg

    The Department of Agriculture is looking to cut down on the number of agency CIOs in the name of efficiency and better communication across mission areas.

  • What's next for agency cyber efforts?

    Ninety days after the Trump administration's executive order, FCW sat down with agency cyber leaders to discuss what’s changing.

Reader comments

Fri, Mar 15, 2013

Congress should consider moving the budget to a biannual cycle to reduce the burden on themselves, be on time, and let the executive branch gain from knowing their budget for a 2-year time period. Unanticipated interim needs could be dealt with by congress on a case-by-case basis.

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group