The federal budget has two practical purposes. One, the budget provides a financial record of federal revenue and expenditures. Two, the budget articulates the nation's priorities by allocating limited discretionary funds to various federal programs, such as funding for the National Science Foundation, U.S. Geological Survey, Environmental Protection Agency, and so forth.
Each spring, the Administration begins to work with federal agencies to prepare the budget requests for the following fiscal year. For example, federal agencies were working to develop their fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget during late 2015 to early 2016. The federal fiscal year runs from 1 October through 30 September.
The President sends a budget request to Congress each year on the first Monday of February. It is important to remember that the President's budget request is only a spending plan. It is not uncommon for Congress to make adjustments to a President's budget, particularly if the Congress and White House are controlled by different political parties with significant policy differences.
The congressional budget process begins with the receipt of the President's budget. Through the House and Senate Budget Committees, Congress determines the overall budget amount. Both chambers of Congress convene hearings to receive testimony from Administration officials, non-governmental policy experts, and other stakeholders. The outcome of these deliberations is a budget resolution (ultimately, a Concurrent Resolution when adopted by both chambers of Congress). Concurrent resolutions are non-binding (lack the force of law) and are not sent to the President.
Following adoption of the budget resolution, the appropriations process originates in the House Appropriations Committee. Subcommittees "mark-up" the 12 separate appropriations bills, each providing funds for specific federal departments and programs. Once approved by the Appropriations Committee, the appropriations legislation is sent to the full House of Representatives for consideration and subsequently the passed version is sent to the Senate. The process then repeats itself in the Senate, with the Senate Appropriations Committee drafting its own version of each of the 12 appropriations bills.
The House and Senate versions are rarely the same. Thus, a "conference" process is established in which leaders from both chambers work to reconcile differences in the legislation. Once a reconciled version of the legislation is approved by the House and Senate, the measure is sent to the President to be signed into law or vetoed.
The AIBS Public Policy Office (PPO) provides members of the biological sciences community with timely information about developments in the federal budget and appropriations process. Additionally, AIBS policy staff work to ensure that federal lawmakers understand how their actions relative to federal spending for scientific research impact biological sciences research and education. To this end, AIBS routinely provides formal and informal testimony to decision-makers in Congress and the Administration.