CR after CR: what's a CFO to do?

Friday - 3/18/2011, 10:08am EDT

Steve Isakowitz, CFO, Department of Energy

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By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

In a normal budget year, agencies are juggling three budgets - executing the current year's budget, convincing Congress and appropriators to act on the next year's budget, and preparing for the budget in two years.

But the budget uncertainty on Capitol Hill this year has made this the "toughest we've seen in many, many years," said Steve Isakowitz, chief financial officer of the Energy Department and co-chairman of the CFO Council, in an interview with the Federal Drive.

"In the example of 2011, here we are, halfway through the fiscal year, and we still don't know what funding we're going to receive," Isakowitz said. "What makes matters more challenging, if you look at what's happening in both the House and Senate and in their marks, they have a very wide disparity of what they're looking at."

President Obama signed a three-week continuing resolution to keep government funded until April 8. With this sixth temporary spending bill for the current budget cycle, agency managers are left figuring out if they should plan to add money to their future budget or to cut back, Isakowitz said.

Agencies are best prepared by "scenario planning," asking themselves how reductions will affect programs, contractors and grantees, he said.

"Similarly, you need to start thinking about big picture priorities," he said.

For example, the president said in his State of the Union address that he wants 80 percent of electricity to come from clean sources by 2035. Energy is now developing the technology to reach that goal, Isakowitz said.

Energy is preparing a Quadrennial Energy Review that encompasses multiple years and sets major milestones, he added.

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