What it Is
The operating plan (op plan) sets forth the specific amounts of money and other appropriated resources that will be used by operating components of the agency and the purposes for which the resources will be used. It is the beginning of the traditional budget execution process. It includes a refinement of "annual plan" prepared under GPRA, including changes in the performance expectations so they fit the available resources.
The agency operating plan must be subdivided among the various operating components of the agency. There may be hundreds of these entities in any sizable agency. The distribution is a funds control procedure: Advices of Allowance are issued, which state in detail the resources being allocated and for what purposes they may be used. Advices of Allowance may include specific restrictions tied to the Conference Report or other internal agency directives.
Decisions on the operating plan directly affect operating officials. It is "cutting up the pie" whose size and flavor has been set by the President and Congress. How much money, of what types, and how many people are available for operations are decided as part of the operating plan process.
What is Involved
For the operating plan to be developed, the agency (and its operating components) have in place systems for:
- Developing the plan, including analytical methodologies to assure rationality.
- Formal ways to communicate to operating components the results of decisions made in the course of op plan preparation.
- Resource use monitoring, and
- Accountability monitoring and determinations.
ALLOWANCES --Op Plan to Operating Components
The funds control processes within the agency are regulated by specific accounting directives, which stem from OMB and GAO directives and requirements. The procedural aspects of funds control can delay funds availability, and, in extreme cases, may negate the use of funds for specific purposes. (Additional information on this is at EXECUTE.)
Funds use can be denied if procedures are violated and illegal acts committed. To an external party such an event appears as an additional, unexplained delay. The reason for the delay is that internal controls catch the problems, necessary actions have to be restarted, and sometimes there is not enough time left in the fiscal year to properly complete all actions.
Operating plan development starts in later summer, preceding the start of the fiscal year, and is completed about two months after the enactment of the appropriations act. Changes in the operating plan, called reprogrammings, can take place after the initial plan is developed and approved. Reprogrammings generally need to be completed before August of the fiscal year since there is little time to process the actions because there are Congressional limits on how much may be reprogrammed without prior approval from the Appropriations committees.
Documents and Links
None that are public. Usually consist of memoranda and listings of proposed funding actions, used to inform OMB and Congress of proposed ways to use the money.