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Week 1 article - Federal Budgeting After September 11th A...

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Federal Budgeting After September 11th: A Whole New Ballgame, or Is It De ´ ja ` Vu All Over Again? PHILIP G. JOYCE Federal budgeting has undergone some profound changes since the tragic events of September 11th, 2001. Large surpluses that existed prior to September 11th and were forecast to continue have been replaced by equally large and intractable deficits. The consensus around a macro-level norm for federal budgeting has completely broken down. In other ways, the federal budget process has not changed at all. Despite the emphasis on defense and homeland security, domestic discretionary spending is still continuing unabated, as it has since the late 1980s. Further, the federal government continues to have chronic difficulty adopting its budget in a timely fashion. Budgeting F as a process of allocating scarce societal resources F is always about dueling priorities. The country has been reminded of this since September 11th, 2001, but it is hardly a new phenomenon. In particular, the competition between domestic gov- ernment and national defense has surfaced (in different ways) in every decade since World War II. Consider the following presidential statement about federal budget policy: 1 faced with a costly war abroad and urgent requirements at home, we have to set priorities. And ‘‘priority’’ is but another word for ‘‘choice.’’ We cannot do everything we wish to do. And so we must choose carefully among the many competing demands on our resources. Although these words sound like they could have come from President Bush’s most recent budget proposal, they were actually uttered by President Lyndon Johnson in his transmittal of the fiscal year 1969 budget almost 35 years ago. Budgeting is inherently about competition among different uses of funding. This was true in 1968. It was true on September 10, 2001. It still is true today. It is fashionable to think that the world of federal budgeting F as the world outside of budgeting F is a lot different since September Philip Joyce is Professor of Public Policy and Public Administration at The George Washington University, 805 21st St. NW, Room 601, Washington, DC. He can be reached at [email protected] . 1. Allen Schick, Congress and Money: Budgeting, Spending and Taxing (Washington, DC: Urban Institute Press, 1980), 26. Joyce / Federal Budgeting After September 11th 15
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11th. Many things have changed since those terrorist attacks, in particular our sense of collective security as a nation. And the federal budget, which had been dominated by large surpluses, is now projected to be in deficit for the foreseeable future. In this paper, I will argue that the current federal budget environment has certainly been affected in fundamental ways by the events of September 11th, 2001, and the nation’s response to them. But in many other ways, the changes that have occurred in the budget outlook and budget process have little to do with these events, and federal budgeting is much the same after these terrorist acts as it was before them. In doing so, the paper will make three broad points: ± The overall budget outlook has worsened considerably since fiscal year 2001.
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