apropos appropriations

Sometimes you can’t help but notice certain changes that occur in the greater DC metropolitan area in conjunction with particular events in the Federal government.  Of course there are the obvious variations in congestion on are highways, crowd sizes at local watering holes, and wait times at upscale restaurants (or even Cosi) that occur every time Congress convenes or goes on recess.  Of course all of these issues can be frustrating – but nothing a quick trip to the gym or weekend marathon can’t remedy.

However, if you are married, dating, or friends with someone who works for the federal government – be they feds, contractors, consultants, or interns – you know that this time of year can often be one of the most challenging.  Why?  Because not only is every October the start of the new fiscal year, it is also when the Office of Management and Budget conducts its “fall review” of every federal agency’s budget proposals for the following fiscal year.  Agencies must then revise their budgets to reflect OMB recommendations reflecting Presidential priorities, assessments of program performance, and other budget constraints.  It’s not until February that the President’s budget is even presented to Congress…and you’ve been living under a rock if you think that Congress just painlessly passes a budget resolution by mid-April.

Mom always told you that some things aren’t easy or polite to talk about with others – like sex, religion, politics, and money.  Somehow all of these elements seem to get wrapped up into the federal budgeting process – and the consequences can be more direct than your favorite public service having their funding cut.  Like the child who doesn’t see their parent for weeks because they are working long into the night reconciling figures from disparate financial systems.  The couple that divorces when one person consummates a torrid affair atop the endless piles of documentation legally required for each submission.  Or the family that loses a child to addiction when they turn to illicit substances for a much needed release from the stresses of endless partisan negotiations.

Ok… I admit that I’m being a bit overdramatic in my presentation… but I have to compete with that new Fall lineup somehow… and I have been working for/with people involved in the budgeting process long enough to know that some of these stories aren’t too far from the truth.  Plus, with so many agencies scrambling to de-obligate monies in an effort to keep the war in Iraq funded, this year’s budget request is going to be pretty intense.

So, if you know someone who seems to get a bit overworked, overwrought, and overwhelmed this time of year – give them a quick call or stop by their place with a six pack.  They may not be able to talk or drink when you do – shoot, they may not even be home – but they’ll appreciate the attempted human contact and your concern for their well being.

Besides, in the end it’s really friends and family – not OMB Circular A-ll – that makes our lives worthwhile.

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