The President's Budget as a Source of Agency Policy Control
109 Pages Posted: 7 May 2016 Last revised: 23 Aug 2016
Date Written: July 13, 2016
A large body of literature in administrative law discusses presidential control of executive agencies through centralized review of regulations in the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), part of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Largely overlooked in this literature is how the President’s budget acts as a source of agency policy control — in particular, how the White House exercises control through OMB’s authority to prepare the budget, oversee agencies’ execution of the budget, and create and implement management initiatives through the budget process. This Article identifies seven levers associated with OMB’s work on budget preparation, budget execution, and management and shows how these levers can control agency policymaking. These levers have some salutary aspects, especially in their valuable coordination work throughout the administrative state, but they also raise a series of accountability concerns related to opacity, the extensive discretion afforded to civil servants and lower-level political appointees, and the potential for substantive policy (and political) choices to be obscured by technocratic-sounding work. The Article concludes with a reform agenda, mapping out ways that the President, OMB, Congress, and civil society should respond to these accountability problems. Future analyses of OIRA’s authority should incorporate discussion of the complementary power of OMB to use the budget as a source of agency policy control.
Keywords: presidential control, budget, OMB, agency, administrative law, Congress
JEL Classification: K23, H61
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation