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Congressional Enactment Process (CEP)


General Information

Congressional Enactment is a three-step process: (1) budget resolution, (2) authorization, and (3) appropriation. The defense budget is a highly visible, politically-sensitive portion of the President's Budget (PB), and its enactment can be subject to frequent and significant delays, as members of Congress conduct in-depth reviews of the PB proposal, and often attempt to use passage of the 12 annual appropriations acts as a political tool. Therefore, in practice, the notional schedule shown in Figure 1 is rarely achieved. Keep in mind that while these steps may appear to follow one another sequentially, they in fact can overlap considerably.



The Congressional (Budget) Enactment Process (see Figure 2), is the legislative mechanism whereby Congress authorizes programs and appropriates funds requested in the PB. By law, the President is required to submit the PB to Congress on the first Monday in February, about 8 months before the fiscal year starts on October 1st.


Figure 2


Following submission of the PB, the Budget Committees begin hearings to examine economic assumptions and spending priorities in preparation for drafting the first concurrent resolution. The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, as amended, provides Congress with a procedure for establishing appropriate spending and revenue levels for each fiscal year. The congressional budget resolution prescribes the overall size of the fiscal pie and the particular sizes of its various pieces to each government function or department. It sets levels of new budget authority and spending, revenue, and debt levels. After floor action, the budget resolution goes to conference.


  1. When/if both chambers pass the conference report, it becomes the concurrent budget resolution. The House and the Senate should produce a concurrent budget resolution by April 15th of each year. The concurrent budget resolution is a self-governing document within the Congress and, since it is not a law, it does not go to the President for signature.  Hence, it may not reflect the President's budget priorities.
  2. While the Budget Committees are trying to pass a budget resolution, the authorization and appropriations committees are holding hearings on the programs under their purview. The authorization and appropriations bills are scheduled to be passed during the summer and fall in preparation for the beginning of the new fiscal year.


Committee/Subcommittee. When a bill is introduced, it is referred to a committee. The committee may ask DoD for written comments on the measure.


  1. Hearings are conducted to gather information and views from DoD officials. Committees receive testimony from the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF), Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), Combatant Commanders (COCOMs), Service Chiefs, Services Secretaries, and other officials. Witnesses summarize submitted statements and respond to questions from Members. The primary defense oversight committees that conduct hearings are the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), House Armed Services Committee (HASC), Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Defense (SAC-D), and House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Defense (HAC-D). Several other committees and subcommittees may also conduct hearings. After testimony, witnesses may be required to respond in writing to additional questions for the record.
  2. Following hearings on introduced bills, committees meet to “mark up” legislation. For defense bills, these markups usually take place during the March - June period. The purpose of these meetings is to decide whether the bill: (1) should be amended, and then (2) referred to the full House or Senate for a vote. DoD will often discuss important issues with members or staff prior to the markup. Amendments can be minor or major. If the committee votes to report the bill, it will also submit a document,the “Committee Report”, which explains the bill’s purposes and provisions.


Influencing Legislation. To influence the content of a Defense bill, various communications are sent to congressional leaders. Preparations begin as soon as a defense oversight committee reports out its bill. The goal can be to promote changes to a bill during floor debate, urge one house to avoid mistakes of the other, or to influence final bill decisions by a conference committee.


  1. Appeals. The Department has a formal process for “appealing” legislative language and/or funding provisions contained in House and Senate passed versions of bills. The process, under the control of the USD Comptroller, may begin after markup. The general idea is to influence conference action on the bill.
  2. In addition to the formal appeals process, the Department (via the Legislative Liaison and Comptroller offices) may contact members and staff, or may provide written communications from the Secretary or other high Departmental officials. Note that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) must clear all written communications to Congress relating to legislation.
  3. President’s Position. Generally, the White House may express its views on a measure to be considered on the floor of the House or Senate in a written document called a "Statement of Administration Policy” (SAP). The OMB, which represents the President, will prepare this document in consultation with the Department.


Congressional Votes. After a Committee reports a bill to the full body, the bill will be debated and possibly amended by the members, and voted on for passage. Generally, bills having to do with revenue or funding are passed first by the House, and then referred to the Senate for action.


Conference. A bill cannot become law until the President signs it. The President can only sign a bill that has been passed in exactly the same form by the House and the Senate. “Conferences” are House-Senate meetings at which differences between similar bills are worked out - the goal is to produce a single measure that both bodies can pass. Each body is represented by a number of “conferees,” generally from the Committee(s) that originally reported the bill.


Presidential Action. Bills may originate in either chamber of congress; however, appropriations bills and bills for raising revenue generally originate in the House. When a bill has been agreed to in identical form by both chambers either without amendment by the Senate, or by House concurrence in the Senate amendments, or by agreement in both bodies to the conference report, a copy of the bill is enrolled for presentation to the President. When the President signs a bill, it becomes public law.


  1. If both the House and Senate pass exactly the same bill, the bill is presented to the President. The President has 10 days in which to sign the bill. If the President “vetoes” the bill, the Congress may override his decision by a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate.
  2. After a Defense appropriations bill becomes law, DoD may propose certain spending be cancelled (a rescission) or reprogrammed for another use. Congressional oversight committees must approve a rescission within 45 days of continuous session after receipt of the proposal or the funds must be made available for obligation.
  3. If appropriations legislation is not enacted in time for fiscal year operations to begin, a continuing resolution authority (CRA) may be passed by Congress and signed by the President to provide agencies the authority to continue operations until the appropriations bill is enacted.


Budget Execution. The fiscal year begins on October 1st. Budget authority is granted to agencies through an apportionment system managed by OMB. OMB apportions (distributes) funds to DoD and other agencies by time periods or activities over the duration of the appropriation. OUSD (Comptroller) then issues funding release documents to DoD components, who make allotments, obligate funds, and request supplemental appropriations and reprogramming. A supplemental appropriations bill provides funds in addition to the regular appropriations level when the need is too urgent to be postponed until the next regular appropriations act. Supplementals often arise when an emergency requires immediate funding (e.g. disaster relief, contingency operations, or war).