The Congressional Budget Office's Work in 2018: A Report to the Congress
Since 1975, CBO has produced nonpartisan analyses of budgetary and economic issues in support of the Congress. In 2018, CBO completed 947 formal cost estimates, 70 analytic reports and working papers, and many other products.
The Congressional Budget Office 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’s work follows processes specified in that law and subsequent laws or developed by the agency in concert with the budget committees and the Congressional leadership. The agency’s chief responsibility under the Budget Act is to help the budget committees with the matters under their jurisdiction. CBO also supports other Congressional committees—particularly the Appropriations, Ways and Means, and Finance Committees, as the Budget Act requires—and the leadership of the House and Senate.
The agency is committed to providing information that is:
Objective and insightful—representing the consensus and diversity of views of experts from around the country and applying the best new evidence as well as the lessons of experience;
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; and
Timely—responding as quickly as possible to the needs of the Congress.
In keeping with CBO’s mandate to provide analysis that is objective and 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 also develops baseline projections, which incorporate the assumption that current law generally does not change, 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 background information and technical assistance 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, analysis 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 support the Congress in collaboration with managers and support staff. At the beginning of January 2019, 245 positions at CBO were filled, with the largest concentration in the area of health.