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Federal Budget Authority and Obligations

Federal Budget Authority and Obligations

Budget authority is the authority provided under law to enter into obligations, which in turn are agreements that will result in immediate or future outlays of government funds. Obligations show government commitment to future transportation outlays but do not indicate when the funds will actually be disbursed or the amounts obligated will be spent. Budget authority is recorded in the year that it first becomes available. Not all budget authority enacted for a fiscal year results in obligations and outlays in the same year; hence they can be available for more than one fiscal year. In this case, the unobliged balance available at the end of a fiscal year will be carried forward for obligation in the following fiscal year.


Budget authority and obligations for highways are collected from the Budget of the U.S. Government because the FHWAs Highway Statistics report does not provide this data. As indicated in Data Sources, the source of data for highway expenditures is the Highway Statistics report. Budget authority and obligations for highways do not include highway programs by federal agencies outside of the Department of Transportation due to lack of data. Therefore, readers should take into account these differences in coverage and data sources when comparing highway expenditures vis--vis budget authority or obligations.


Budget authority and obligation of the following programs are included for transit: all of the Federal Transit Administration programs, commuter rail subsidies of the Federal Railroad Administration, and the federal government interest payment contributions to the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority.


For railroad, budget authority and obligations for all programs of the Federal Railroad Administration and administrative expenses and regional rail reorganization program of the former U.S. Railway Association are included.


Budget authority for air includes all of the FAA programs, NASA, and air transportation-related programs of the Office of the Secretary of Transportation and the Department of Homeland Security. Obligations of all these programs are also accounted for except NASA, due to lack of data.


The following programs are included in water mode budget authority and obligations: all programs of the Maritime Administration, Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp., Panama Canal Commission, and Federal Maritime Commission and transportation-related budget authority and obligations of the U.S. Coast Guard. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is not included because of lack of data.


Budget authority and obligations for pipeline constitute the Research and Special Programs Administrations pipeline safety program, which includes enforcement, research and development, and grants for state pipeline safety programs.

General Support

Budget authority and obligations of the following agencies are covered under General Support: All programs of the office of the Secretary (except payment to air carriers, essential air service, and commission on aircraft security), all programs of the Office of the Inspector General, all programs of the Research and Special Programs Administration (except pipeline safety fund), salaries and expenses of the Interstate Commerce Commission until its termination, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, all programs of the National Transportation Safety Board, and Transportation Security Administration.[16]

Updated: Saturday, May 20, 2017