Although the basic institutional and conceptual budget framework laid out in 1967 and 1974 is serving the nation well, several recent developments have placed strains on the capacity of existing budget concepts and procedures to serve the budget information and control needs of Congress, the executive branch, and the public. Legislation has been enacted removing important federal programs from the budget, resulting in incomplete budget coverage and totals that do not reflect the true level of federal activities. GAO believes that it is essential to recognize the extent of the erosion which has taken place and to begin taking action to overcome the resulting inadequacies in the process. In the opinion of GAO, the government's budgeting system must be improved to deal adequately with the serious economic conditions facing the nation in this decade.
Five basic kinds of changes are needed in the budget process: (1) to place most off-budget federal activities back onto the budget, early legislative action is needed; (2) to better control short- and long-term budget levels, a wide range of management, financing, and legislative actions are needed; (3) to strengthen program and policy level accountability, steps are needed to improve the budget's categories and related information; (4) to streamline the process in order to reduce paperwork and superficial reviews and increase the time for careful analyses and informed debate, changes are needed in scheduling and reporting requirements; and (5) to increase the reliability, consistency, and comparability of budget figures, action is required on several measurement concepts and practices.
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