Although Congress has just completed action on spending bills for fiscal year 1990, which started two months ago, federal agencies are finishing the budget submission for FY 1991 that President Bush sends to Congress in January. Making this complicated process even more difficult is a new system devised by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that is apparently causing many federal agencies to rethink their budgeting strategy.

About a year and a half before the start of a new fiscal year OMB and federal agencies start preparing the budget—a multivolume report setting the future course and identifying the priorities for the administration. OMB, a part of the Executive Office of the President, is crucial in determining spending priorities. It is difficult to overemphasize the importance of OMB, yet it is an agency which maintains a very low profile (often refusing to testify before congressional committees).