Seven Resources for Understanding CBO’s Role and Work

Posted by
Keith Hall
February 22, 2019

As the 116th Congress gets under way, I would like to highlight a number of multimedia, interactive, and analytical resources on CBO’s website that Members of Congress and Congressional staff might find useful.

Introduction to CBO Video
Recently CBO released a video, in partnership with the Congressional Research Service (CRS), highlighting 10 things to know about the agency’s role and responsibilities.

Last fall, CBO launched a podcast, In Our Estimation, which explores how and why cost estimates are produced, the Congressional budget process, and transparency at CBO. That three-part series is available on iTunes

CBO also launched three interactive tools last year:

  • A force structure tool, which allows users to see the effects of adding or subtracting tanks, ships, aircraft, and other units on the Department of Defense’s total operation and support costs and on the size of the military.
  • A waterfall model for projecting discretionary spending, which allows users to simulate CBO’s process for projecting discretionary budget authority and outlays for different types of spending over the course of 10 years.
  • A workbook on how changes in economic conditions might affect the federal budget, which allows users to develop alternative scenarios for productivity growth, labor force growth, inflation, and interest rates and see estimates of revenues, several types of spending, and deficits under those scenarios.

Budget Options
Another helpful resource is CBO’s Options for Reducing the Deficit: 2019 to 2028, the latest edition of a report the agency publishes periodically to help inform lawmakers. The report describes 121 policy options—covering many areas, including defense, health, Social Security, and provisions of the tax code—that would decrease federal spending or increase federal revenues over the next decade. CBO’s website includes a tool that allows users to search by keywords and to filter options by major budget category, budget function, topic, and date.

In February 2018, CBO published three primers to explain key aspects of how the agency’s does its work:

Those primers formed the basis for several presentations (discussed below).

Members of CBO’s staff have given many presentations to Congressional staff about various aspects of CBO’s work, including the following:

CBO has worked with CRS and other agencies to provide Congressional staff with more opportunities to learn about CBO’s methods and analyses and will continue to do so.

Transparency Page
Finally, I want to reiterate CBO’s commitment to transparency. CBO aims to promote a thorough understanding of its work, help people gauge how estimates might change if policies or circumstances differed, and enhance the credibility of its analyses and processes. To learn more about CBO’s recent transparency efforts—including overviews and documentation of some of its major models—see Transparency at CBO: Future Plans and a Review of 2018.

Since 1975, CBO has produced independent analyses of budgetary and economic issues to support the Congressional budget process. Each year, the agency’s economists and budget analysts produce dozens of reports and hundreds of cost estimates for proposed legislation. CBO is strictly nonpartisan, conducts objective, impartial analysis, and does not make policy recommendations.

We look forward to working with Members of the 116th Congress and their staffs.

Keith Hall is CBO’s Director.