[House Document 107-265]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]

107th Congress, 2d Session - - - - - - - - - - - - House Document 107-




                        THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL,




 September 24, 2002.--Referred to the Committee on Appropriations and 
                         ordered to be printed
          Comptroller General of the United States,
                                 General Accounting Office,
                                 Washington, DC, September 4, 2002.
Hon. J. Dennis Hastert,
Speaker of the House of Representatives,
Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Speaker: On May 3, 2002, the President submitted 
to the Congress his first special impoundment message for 
fiscal year 2002. The message reports two deferrals of budget 
authority. On May 31, 2002, the Office of Management and Budget 
reappointed the budget authority withheld under these two 
deferrals and withdrew the deferrals after concluding that the 
funds do not meet the definition for deferrals contained in the 
Impoundment Control Act, 2 U.S.C. Sec. Sec. 681-688, as 
amended. Therefore, as of June 1, 2002, no funds are being 
    Under 2 U.S.C. Sec. 685(b), the General Accounting Office 
is required to review each special impoundment message and 
inform the Congress of the facts surrounding each proposed 
deferral of budget authority and whether or not such proposed 
deferrals are in accordance with existing statutory authority. 
After reviewing the relevant documents, our Office has no 
objection to the withdrawal of the deferrals.
    Under the Impoundment Control Act deferrals are permissible 
only (1) to provide for contingencies; (2) to achieve savings 
made possible by or through changes in requirements or greater 
efficiency of operations; or (3) as specifically provided by 
law. 2 U.S.C. Sec. 684(b). No officer or employee of the United 
States may defer any budget authority for any other purpose. 
Id. However, our decisions distinguish between programmatic 
withholdings outside of the reach of the Impoundment Control 
Act and withholdings of budget authority that qualify as 
impoundments subject to the Act's requirements. Programmatic 
delays typically occur when an agency is taking necessary steps 
to implement a program even if funds temporarily go 
unobligated. See B-171630, May 10, 1976 (delay of grant awards 
pending issuance of implementing regulations is a programmatic 
delay). Thus, the Act does not apply to a delay in obligating 
funds due to program-related factors. B-290659, July 24, 2002; 
B-207374, July 20, 1982; B-205053, May 17, 1982.
    The budget authority for the first submitted deferral of 
United States Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance funds 
was being withheld pending a determination of the President to 
provide emergency assistance and designating the refugees to be 
assisted by the fund. The budget authority for the second 
submitted deferral for International Assistance Programs was 
being withheld pending the development of country-specific 
plans that assure that aid is provided in an efficient manner. 
The delays associated with obligating these funds are more akin 
to programmatic delays than to impoundments, and OMB need not 
have reported the funds as deferred. Thus, we do not object to 
the withdrawal of the two previously reported deferrals.
    We also want to point out that OMB is required to send the 
Congress a supplementary message if anything contained in any 
special message is subsequently revised. 2 U.S.C. Sec. 685. As 
mentioned above, OMB used its cumulative report to the Congress 
to advise that it had reapportioned the two previously reported 
fiscal year 2002 deferrals and removed the deferral 
designations. OMB explained that based on a recent analysis, 
the funds did not meet the definition for deferrals contained 
in the Impoundment Control Act. Although the cumulative report 
may serve as an effective vehicle to report subsequent 
revisions to previously submitted impoundments, we believe the 
narrative in the cumulative report could have been improved by 
additional detail explaining why the deferrals were withdrawn. 
Since the President has been routinely reporting the deferrals 
in these accounts since the 1970's, a more detailed explanation 
would have been helpful to the Congress to understand why the 
long-reported deferrals no longer met the definition for 
deferrals contained in the Impoundment Control Act. See 
Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund deferral number 
D80-18 (October 1, 1979) and International Assistance Programs 
deferral number D80-1 (October 1, 1979).
    In sum, our Office has no objection to the withdrawal of 
the deferrals. However, a more detailed explanation would have 
been helpful to understand OMB's rationale for withdrawing the 
previously submitted deferrals.
            Sincerely yours,
                                                   David M. Walker.