Budget Officials: Across-the-Board Cuts Are the ‘Lazy’ Way Out

larry1235/Shutterstock.com

Federal budget officials are turning against across-the-board spending cuts in favor of a more refined approach, a new survey finds.

Only 8 percent of respondents to a 2013 survey of federal budget professionals conducted by the American Association for Budget and Program Analysis and Grant Thornton said they would prefer to achieve spending reductions by making broad cuts and protecting all their programs. Another 14 percent said they supported across-the-board cuts but would chop some programs more than others.

In contrast to a similar 2011 survey, however, a majority of budget officials indicated they would opt for a more targeted strategy. Fifty-four percent said they “try to consider program priorities when we allocate our cuts,” and 24 percent said their agencies would “better serve our stakeholders by doing fewer activities but doing them well.”

Participants used “words like ‘stupid,’ ‘coward’s way out’ and ‘lazy analyst’ to describe across-the-board cuts,” the report on the survey results stated. “The respondents’ comments were fairly uniform, with many of them declaring they need the ability to eliminate entire programs.”

In 2011, “more respondents said they would prefer to reduce many activities rather than to eliminate a few,” the authors noted.

The online survey -- which drew 145 responses, mostly from executive branch officials – depicted a budget workforce trying to engage in longer-term planning while constrained by uncertainty surrounding appropriations levels. Despite sequestration, continuing resolutions and persistent shutdown threats (this survey was nearly complete before the 16-day October shutdown), only 10 percent of respondents said they were focused solely on “making it through the year,” but 82 percent acknowledged that budget analysis suffers when officials “have to contend with the crisis du jour.” 

Many participants also said it would be hard, if not impossible, to find further cuts. Asked how they would adhere to Office of Management and Budget guidance directing them to reduce their fiscal 2015 budget submissions by 10 percent over previous estimates, 28 percent said “after all of our other reductions, there is nothing left to cut.” Another 39 percent said it would be “difficult but doable.” Only 15 percent indicated the task would be relatively easy.

“Constrained by funding and politics, agencies have forced [budget professionals] to become masters of the Band-Aid solution – finding the quick, low-cost fix that pushes challenges into the future rather than solving them in the present,” the report concluded. “They are often frustrated and sometimes angry at the state of the budget process today.” 

(Image via larry1235/Shutterstock.com)

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.