The Congressional Budget Office’s Work in 2015: A Report to the Congress
Since 1975, CBO has produced nonpartisan analyses of budgetary and economic issues in support of the Congress. In 2015, CBO completed 640 formal cost estimates and 94 analytic reports and working papers.
In calendar year 2015, CBO produced hundreds of formal cost estimates and mandate statements as well as thousands of informal estimates, ongoing “scorekeeping” estimates for appropriation acts, and more than 90 analytic reports and working papers. CBO also continued its efforts to make the agency an appealing place to work, to develop the skills of its staff, and to provide the tools necessary to maximize its staff ’s productivity.
Formal Cost Estimates and Mandate Statements
CBO completed 640 formal cost estimates in 2015. They generally included explanations of the components of the estimates and the estimating methodology used. The vast majority also included mandate statements, which assess whether legislation contains intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and, if so, assess the magnitude of the mandates’ effects on the private sector and on state, local, and tribal governments.
That count of formal estimates greatly understates CBO’s total cost-estimating workload because most of the agency’s estimates are provided on a preliminary, informal basis, when legislative proposals are still at the early stages of development by committees or by the leadership of the House or Senate. CBO provided thousands of informal cost estimates in 2015.
On an ongoing basis during 2015, CBO provided spending estimates with account-level detail for individual appropriation acts at all stages of the legislative process. Those tabulations totaled 118 last year. The agency also provided periodic summary tables showing the status of discretionary appropriations (by appropriations subcommittee) and running totals on a year-to-date basis.
Baseline Budget and Economic Projections and the Data Underlying Them
CBO issued 10-year budget and economic projections in January and August and an update of the 10-year budget projections in March. In June, the agency issued long-term budget projections looking ahead decades further. In conjunction with all of those projections, CBO posted on its website (in 48 separate files) detailed data on spending and revenues and on different aspects of the economy.
Analytic Reports and Working Papers
To describe those projections, CBO produced two major reports about the budget and economic outlook (in January and August) as well as one about the updated budget projections (in March). The agency also provided a comprehensive analysis of the long-term outlook for federal budget, spanning a 25-year horizon, which also included analysis of the economic outcomes under different budgetary paths and of the uncertainty surrounding long-term budget projections.
In addition, CBO produced two analyses of the President’s budgetary proposals, one of which addressed the macroeconomic effects of those proposals.
Besides those major reports, CBO released its Monthly Budget Review at the beginning of every month. That report provides a timely analysis of the previous month’s outlays and revenues and a review of budgetary developments for the fiscal year to date.
CBO published numerous other analytic reports in 2015—with increased emphasis on providing explanations of the agency’s analytical methods in appendixes and as separate documents. Some of those analyses took the form of formal reports; others were conveyed as answers to questions for the record following a Congressional hearing, letters to Members of Congress, and working papers providing technical descriptions of official CBO analyses or presenting independent research by CBO analysts.
CBO also presented the results of its work in the form of testimony at Congressional hearings. The agency submitted written testimony to Congressional committees on a variety of topics, including the veterans’ health care system, spending on highways, the renewable fuel standard, naval shipbuilding, and nuclear waste disposal.
In conjunction with some of its analytic reports, CBO posted supplemental data on its website. The agency also posted 39 presentations, most drawn from published analyses. And it produced some in-depth blog posts on various topics.
The agency’s full list of analytic reports and working papers totals 94.