Authority, Outlays, and Obligations: oh my!
We’ve been talking about the DATA Act this week because it represents an opportunity to improve our insight into how the U.S. federal government spends money. Tracking precise amounts of federal spending is tricky, but it’s critical to having an informed discussion about the budget.
“Federal spending” can mean different things. When Congress and the president pass a budget, they’re granting budget authority to federal agencies, which gives them the legal authority to spend money.
Once the agencies have budget authority, they enter into obligations, which essentially set money aside ...