Today marks the 45th anniversary of CBO’s founding. On such an occasion, it is natural to look back on this institution’s history and how it has supported the Congress over the decades. And as CBO’s 10th Director, I am excited to have the opportunity to be a steward for its growth as it becomes still more responsive to the needs of the Congress.
This is the agency’s first anniversary without Alice Rivlin, its first Director. To honor her legacy, we have created a new page on our website that recounts her efforts to get CBO up and running and describes the guiding principles that she imparted, which are still alive and well within these halls today. My goal is to live up to the standards that she set for the agency.
During 2019, both before and after my arrival in June, CBO made many strides. We published over 700 formal cost estimates and nearly 80 analytic reports, working papers, and testimonies. When possible, our analysts have begun providing a more detailed discussion of how actual spending might prove higher or lower than our estimates. In addition, CBO’s website has new filters for searching cost estimates by their effects on spending, revenues, and the deficit. Cost estimates now link to Congress.gov so that users can easily track the progress of bills as they move through the legislative process. Cost estimates can now be integrated into XML feeds. Furthermore, CBO has continued its efforts to be transparent by providing interactive tools, computer code, and equations describing its modeling. CBO also now publishes quarterly updates on its work in progress. Whatever the product, our goal is to provide it in a clear and easily understandable manner that is objective and timely.
I know that there are ways that CBO can be still more responsive in getting Members of Congress the information that they need. In testimony that I recently submitted to the Congress about CBO’s appropriation request for the upcoming year, I noted that an increase in CBO’s staff over the past two years has allowed us to add capacity in certain policy areas of especially high Congressional interest, such as health care. That increase in staff, part of a multiyear plan that we hope will conclude successfully next year, is also helping us handle surges in Congressional demand for budgetary analyses. In addition, we are looking to improve our internal information technology systems next year to allow us to better track and manage documents associated with requests from Members of Congress and committees.
Like the Directors who came before me, I consider it a privilege to carry on what Alice started in 1975. Every day, I am excited to work with CBO’s dedicated staff to provide nonpartisan analyses in support of the Congress and on behalf of the American people.
Phillip L. Swagel is CBO’s Director.