How the Budget Process Works

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advocates for many different issues that align with the mission and goals of dietetics. Many of these issues fund specific food and nutrition programs and agencies that promote healthy eating for all Americans. These programs can include WIC, SNAP-Ed, SNAP, the Fresh Fruits and Vegetable Program, Agriculture Research, Community Health Prevention investments, congregate dining, home-delivered meals, child nutrition programs, NIH and USDA research, food safety and Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement.

Fiscal Year

The Federal government’s fiscal year begins on October 1 and ends on September 30 of the next calendar year. Thus fiscal year 2015 will begin on October 1, 2014 and end September 30, 2015.

Discretionary and Mandatory Spending

Each function within the budget must fall within two types of spending; discretionary and mandatory. Discretionary spending requires an annual appropriations bill, which is a piece of legislation. This type of spending typically is set by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. Most appropriations are set for one year, but some can be multi-year such as those used for housing programs or military procurement programs.

There are 12 appropriation bills that must be passed each fiscal year in order for continued spending to occur:

  • Agriculture, Rural Development and Food and Drug Administration*
  • Commerce, Justice and Science
  • Defense
  • Energy and Water Development
  • Financial Services
  • Homeland Security
  • Interior and Environment
  • Labor, Health and Human Services and Education*
  • Military Construction and Veteran Affairs
  • State and Foreign Operations
  • Transportation and Housing and Urban Development

*important to the Academy’s long-term agenda

An "omnibus bill" is a term used when multiple bills are joined together into one larger bill. This typically happens when Congress must pass many bills in a short amount of time to keep the government funded.

"Mandatory spending" refers to spending enacted by law, but not dependent on an annual or periodic appropriation bill. Most mandatory spending consists of entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and interest on the national debt.


According to the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, the President must submit a budget to Congress each year between the first Monday in January and the first Monday in February. The President's budget (which can be found at the Office of Management and Budget's website) contains detailed information on spending and revenue proposals, along with policies that have budgetary implications.

After the President releases his budget the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) publishes an analysis of his budget in March. In this analysis CBO computes what is called a baseline budget — or a projection of spending and revenue for the government in the absence of any new legislation. They create a one-year analysis and a 10-year analysis.

The House and Senate Budget Committees control the process within Congress. They review the President's Budget and submit their own resolution by April 1. The resolution is an outline that identifies funding levels for each agency within the federal government. The resolutions put forward by these two committees only set funding levels and do not allocate specific amounts of money.

Appropriations Committee(s) are the 13 subcommittees that fund the federal government take the budget resolutions and begin to allocate the dollars. For example, the House Budget Committee may pass a bill outlining $80 billion for the Department of Agriculture. However, the appropriations subcommittee responsible for the USDA may then pass where only $70 billion is actually allocated.

Once these bills are passed out of their respective subcommittees and committees they are sent to the House and Senate floor. Typically a conference committee between the House and Senate is needed to resolve any differences between the two bills. The bill is then sent to the President for signature or veto.

In recent years, Congress has not passed all of the appropriation bills before the start of the fiscal year. Congress has then enacted what is known as a "continuing resolution." This act provides temporary funding for government relations. The temporary funding is always held at current levels.

For more information, visit The Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office websites.