The Congressional Budget Office's Work in 2016: A Report to the Congress
Since 1975, CBO has produced nonpartisan analyses of budgetary and economic issues in support of the Congress. In 2016, CBO completed 676 formal cost estimates and 63 analytic reports and working papers.
CBO was established under the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 to provide information that would support the Congressional budget process and help the Congress make effective budget and economic policy. CBO provides estimates and other analyses in response to requests from the Committees on the Budget, the Committees on Appropriations, the House Committee on Ways and Means, the Senate Committee on Finance, other committees, and the leadership of the House and Senate.
The agency is committed to providing information that is:
- Objective—representing not the personal opinions of CBO staff but the consensus and diversity of views of experts from around the country;
- Insightful—applying the best new evidence and innovative ideas as well as the lessons of experience;
- Timely—responding as quickly as possible to the needs of the Congress; and
- Clearly presented and explained—so that policymakers and analysts understand the basis for the agency’s findings and have the opportunity to question the analysis and methods used.
In keeping with CBO’s mandate to provide analysis that is objective as well as impartial, the agency makes no policy recommendations. Instead, it strives to present fully and fairly the likely consequences of alternative proposals being considered by the Congress so that lawmakers can make informed policy choices.
To fulfill its mission, CBO analyzes trends and recent developments related to the economy and the budget. It then develops baseline projections for the next 10 years and the longer term. Those baseline projections serve as neutral benchmarks for gauging the effects of spending and revenue proposals relative to what would occur if current laws generally remained unchanged. Using those benchmarks in most of its analyses, the agency does the following:
- Issues formal cost estimates for almost all bills reported by committees of the House and Senate, including estimates of the cost of intergovernmental and private-sector mandates;
- Provides informal cost estimates while legislation is being developed and while amendments are being considered by the House and Senate;
- Estimates the cost of all appropriation bills;
- Prepares analytic reports and working papers—including testimony about the outlook for the economy and the budget, examinations of the President’s budget, and studies on a broad range of budgetary and economic issues;
- Posts files of data on its website documenting its baseline projections and providing other information underlying the analytic reports; and
- Publishes descriptions of policy options that would reduce budget deficits, as well as information to clearly present and explain CBO’s analyses.
The agency employs analysts with many types of expertise who undertake those activities in collaboration with managers and support staff. At the beginning of January 2017, 236 positions at CBO were filled, with the largest concentration in the area of health.