CBO provides budgetary and economic information in a variety of ways and at various points in the legislative process.

Baseline Budget and Economic Projections

As required by the Budget Act, CBO regularly publishes projections of budgetary and economic outcomes that are based on the assumption that current laws about federal spending and revenues will generally remain in place. Those baseline projections cover the 10-year period used in the Congressional budget process. Reports on those projections usually describe differences between current and previous projections, compare CBO's economic forecast with other forecasts, and show the budgetary effects of some alternative policies. Specific rules for developing baseline projections are set in law (in particular, the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985) or have been developed by CBO in consultation with the House and Senate Budget Committees.

The baseline projections are not predictions of budgetary or economic outcomes. Rather, they represent CBO's assessment of how the budget and the economy would evolve under existing laws. That approach allows the baseline to serve as a benchmark for measuring the effects of proposed legislation.

CBO's economic forecasts cover the major economic variables—gross domestic product, unemployment, inflation, and interest rates—along with a broad array of other economic measures. The forecasts draw information from the agency's ongoing analysis of daily economic events and data, the major commercial forecasting services, consultation with economists both within and outside the federal government, and the advice of the experts on the agency's Panel of Economic Advisers. For more information, see CBO Explains How It Develops the Budget Baseline and How CBO Produces Its 10-Year Economic Forecast.

Frequency: A recurring report, The Budget and Economic Outlook is generally issued each winter and updated in August; the budget projections are also usually updated in March. The schedule for those reports sometimes varies, depending on the timing of major legislation.

Technical Assistance

CBO fulfills numerous requests for technical assistance as committees are crafting legislation, as amendments to bills are being debated, and at other stages in the legislative process. The agency's analysts often provide preliminary estimates to committee staff, helping them weigh different options for achieving legislative goals.

By law, CBO's primary responsibility is to Congressional committees, but to the extent practicable, the agency also provides information to Members' offices. The most common request is for a preliminary estimate of the effects on mandatory spending of a bill or a tentative proposal; CBO's assistance may also involve answering general questions about the budget or responding to questions about previously published cost estimates.

Individual Members seeking a review of their bill may submit a request, with any draft language attached or the bill number referenced, by email to If time allows, CBO provides preliminary feedback about a bill's possible effects on direct spending, usually by phone or email. If analysts cannot work on a request right away, the agency will provide a sense of whether or when they can.

Frequency: CBO fulfills thousands of requests for technical assistance each year.

Cost Estimates and Mandate Statements

CBO is required by law to produce a cost estimate for nearly every bill that is approved by a full committee of either the House or the Senate. The agency also publishes cost estimates at other stages of the legislative process if requested to do so by a relevant committee or by the Congressional leadership. In addition, CBO reviews bills scheduled to be considered on the House's suspension calendar (which is generally used to handle noncontroversial bills that are expected to pass quickly and with little debate).

Cost estimates typically show how a bill would affect discretionary spending, mandatory spending, or revenues over the next 5 or 10 years, depending on the type of spending involved, and describe the basis for the estimate. For bills considered under suspension of the rules in the House, CBO estimates the bill's effects on mandatory spending and revenues. The agency's cost estimates for committee-approved bills include analyses of any mandates and associated costs that those bills would impose on state, local, and tribal governments or on the private sector.

CBO's cost estimates are only advisory. They can—but need not—be used to enforce budgetary rules or targets. CBO does not enforce such budgetary rules; the Budget Committees do. For tax legislation, CBO uses estimates provided by the staff of the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, a bicameral Congressional committee that works closely with the tax-writing committees.

CBO's analysts are available to answer questions from Members and their staffs about cost estimates. For more information, see CBO Describes Its Cost-Estimating Process.

Frequency: Produced throughout the year, cost estimates for bills not on the House suspension calendar typically number between 600 and 800 annually; estimates for bills considered under suspension of the rules total about 400 per year.

Scorekeeping for Legislation

CBO supplies the Budget and Appropriations Committees with frequent tabulations of Congressional action affecting spending and revenues. Those scorekeeping reports provide information about whether legislative actions are consistent with the spending and revenue levels set in budget resolutions.

Frequency: Produced periodically throughout the year.

Long-Term Budget Projections

CBO provides the Congress with budget projections beyond the standard 10-year period. Those projections, which focus on the next 30 years, show the effects of demographic trends, economic developments, and health care costs on federal spending, revenues, and deficits. The assumptions about federal spending and revenue policies used for the long-term budget projections match those underlying the agency's 10-year baseline for the first decade and are extended in a similar way to later years. The projections also include the long-term budgetary and economic effects of some alternative policies.

Frequency: Produced annually, usually in the summer. Interim updates are provided in The Budget and Economic Outlook.

Analytic Reports

CBO's reports cover every major area of federal policy, including spending programs, the tax code, and budgetary and economic challenges. Most reports are written at the request of the Chair or Ranking Member of a committee or subcommittee or at the request of the leadership of either party in the House or Senate. Often, the reports present a set of options for changes in the federal program or tax rules under consideration, estimating each option's budgetary and economic effects and discussing its benefits and drawbacks. As with the agency's other products, those reports make no recommendations.

CBO prepares some of its analytic reports annually. For instance, the agency prepares a report each year listing all programs and activities funded for the current fiscal year for which authorizations of appropriations have expired or will expire during the current fiscal year. CBO also publishes an annual report on the Defense Department's five-year plan, known as the Future Years Defense Program. The report examines the plan's costs and long-term budgetary implications.

Frequency: Produced throughout the year.

Analyses of the President’s Budget

After the President submits a budget, CBO produces its own estimate of the effects of the proposed policies using the agency's own economic forecast and estimating methods—the same ones it uses to develop its baseline projections of spending and revenues and to estimate the effects of other spending and revenue proposals. That approach allows the Congress to compare the various proposals and projections.

Frequency: Produced annually, usually in the spring. CBO sometimes provides a subsequent analysis of the effects of the President's budgetary proposals on the economy and the resulting effects on the federal budget.

Budget Options

CBO produces reference volumes that examine options for reducing budget deficits. They include a wide range of options, derived from many sources, for reducing spending or increasing revenues. The agency provides estimates of the budgetary effects of each option over 10 years.

Frequency: Produced every two years.

Monthly Budget Review

CBO issues a monthly analysis of federal spending and revenue totals for the previous month and the fiscal year to date.

Frequency: Produced on the sixth working day of each month.

Testimony, Statements, and Answers to Questions for the Record

Representatives of CBO testify at Congressional hearings, providing written statements and answering specific public questions from Members of Congress. The agency also publishes answers to Members' subsequent questions on its website.

Frequency: Produced throughout the year.

Working Papers

CBO's working papers provide technical descriptions and explanations of its analyses as well as independent research by the agency's analysts. Those publications enhance the transparency of CBO's work and encourage external review of it.

Frequency: Produced throughout the year.

Data and Technical Information

To provide more details about CBO's budget and economic projections and to increase the transparency of its other analyses, the agency posts data and other technical information on its website.

Frequency: Produced throughout the year and coordinated with the release of related publications.


CBO's staff gives presentations on various topics to Congressional staff and outside groups. The agency generally publishes the visual content of those presentations on its website.

Frequency: Produced throughout the year.

Data Visualizations

To make CBO's analyses easier to understand, the agency publishes chart books, visual reports, slide decks, and infographics about the budget and the economy.

Frequency: Produced throughout the year.

Interactive Tools

CBO posts interactive tools on its website that allow the Congress and the public to simulate and compare alternative scenarios for major programmatic and budgetary areas of interest. The tools are based on the agency's process for developing cost estimates and baseline projections.

Frequency: Produced throughout the year.