We can - with some confidence - foresee how the rest of the year will play out, the paramount consideration being the Presidential election.
Congress has rejected making changes in the budget process, throwing out the new and deciding to stick with the tried and true. This affects budget execution, budget formulation decisions for the following year, including potential vetoes, and its execution (which is set to start before the election), and additional budget formulation.Hallmark for the process will be control, to assure that only what is advantageous from the point of view of the Presidential election takes place. All players want to make sure that their position prevails in the Presidential contest, and no actions will be taken without full consideration of its impact on the electoral college. The Executive and the Congressional minority will take actions to assure that the Democratic candidate is elected President, and the Congressional majority will take actions to make sure that the Republican candidate is elected.
For agencies and operating components this translates into direct control from those running the Democratic presidential race. Many organizations will be on auto pilot, doing the minimally necessary to survive and not rock the boat - this is the way it will be because of high level political decisions. It makes no sense for an agency to be allowed to take an action that may offend or alienate an important block of voters - best to wait until after the election. For these organizations, it will be a slow and torpid summer - a good time to clean out the files and prepare briefing materials for the new administration that will come in January 2001. But, if you are in one of these organizations, be prepared to urgently prepare briefing materials on whatever hot issue happens to appear on the horizon related to your agency - demands for this type of work will increase with increasing political nervousness.
Some organizations will be very busy, having been chosen as responsible for programs and activities that will support the Executive's preferences, or that will be asked to get urgent things over with so that they will have a minimal effect or won't be remembered after the summer. Sometimes this will mean a hectic pace, not always rational or understood. Sometimes the actions will most likely hurt rather than help the Executive's cause, but then a small group attempting control cannot always get it right. Frustrating for analysts, but this is the way it is in human affairs.
All this makes budget work interesting, and one of the reasons why budget people seldom take long vacations in the summer. And remember that FY 2002 budget preparation will be underway at the same time, with tight controls in place to make sure that nothing related to this process affects the Presidential election adversely - but things may leak out if they are deemed to benefit the electoral process. Also keep in mind that next fiscal year actions in Congress and its interaction with the Executive will play out at the same time.