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GAO's Principles of Federal Appropriations Law

The GAO “Red Book” Explained
Includes Updates to the GAO Red Book (3rd Edition) Dated March 2009

This course is available for On-Site Training only. We will bring this course to your agency or company.
Contact Don Dickson, On-Site Training Manager at (301) 455-5633 or


This training workshop is recommended for 32 Continuous Learning Points (CLPs) toward DAWIA, FAC-C and FAC-P/PM requirements. For information on fulfilling core, elective and continuous learning requirements, click here to view OMB Policy Letter.

This course has been approved by the Supreme Court of Ohio commission on Continuing Legal Education for 11.50 total CLE hour(s).

Course Description

The legal aspects of federal appropriations are complex and multidimensional. Using the Government Accountability Office's Principles of Federal Appropriations Law as a reference, this seminar examines the statutes and case law which govern the appropriations process. Through lectures and classroom exercises the course shows how the GAO rules on the propriety of agency expenditures and how Comptroller General decisions establish a framework for an agency's fiscal operations.

Major topics help participants:

Interpret appropriations
  • Appropriation act versus authorization act
  • Life cycle of appropriations
  • Effect of budget estimates
  • Reprogramming and transfer
Determine appropriation availability as to purpose
  • General principles
  • Necessary expense rule
  • Specific purpose limitations
Establish appropriation availability as to time
  • Bona fide needs rule
  • Advance payments prohibition
  • Disposition of appropriation balances
Identify appropriation availability as to amount
  • Earmarking language
  • Antideficiency Act
  • Augmentation of appropriations
Obligate appropriations
  • Criteria for recording
  • Contingent liabilities
  • De-obligation
Understand continuing resolutions
  • Rate for operations
  • Projects or activities
  • Relationship to other legislation
Review liability and relief of accountable officers
  • Improper payments
  • Physical loss

Example Attendees Include

  • Program Managers
  • Budget and Finance Officers
  • General Counsel
  • Contract Administrators
  • Acquisition Executives
  • Federal contractors
  • Federal product and services suppliers, systems integrators
  • Acquisition Analysts
  • Chief Information Officer
  • Business Policy & Strategies Offices
  • CFO
  • Budget and Program Analysts
  • Office of the IG
  • Office of the Comptroller

Course Syllabus

Federal Appropriations Law

1. Legal Framework
  1. Constitutional basis
  2. Historical review
  3. Basic definitions
2. Life Cycle of an Appropriation
  1. Budget formulation
  2. Congressional process
  3. Enactment or funding gap
  4. Apportionment and allotment
  5. Close of fiscal year
  6. Audit and review
3. Interpreting Appropriation Language
  1. Interrelationship of authorization and appropriation
  2. Effect of budget estimates
  3. Reprogramming and transfer
  4. Permanent legislation in an appropriation
  5. Application of legislative history
4. Availability of Appropriations as to Purpose
  1. Necessary expense rule
  2. Specific purpose limitations
  3. -entertainment and recreation
    -personal expenses and furnishings
    -state and local taxes
5. Availability of Appropriations as to Time
  1. Bona Fide need rule
  2. Replacement contracts rule
  3. Contract modifications
  4. Year-end disposition of appropriation balances
  5. Elimination of “M” accounts
6. Availability of Appropriations as to Amount
  1. Earmarking language
  2. Antideficiency Act
  3. Augmentation of appropriations
7. Obligation of Appropriations
  1. Recording Statute
  2. Contingent liabilities
  3. Deobligation
8. Continuing Resolutions

9. Liability and Relief of Accountable Officers
  1. Statutory framework
  2. Physical loss vs. improper payment
  3. Statute of Limitations

Course Highlights:

  • GAO Red Book, Revised May 2011
  • Proper use guidelines for use of funds by category
  • Terms dictionary – excellent desk reference
  • List of spending traps to avoid
  • Practical exercises – learn by doing
  • All courses taught in our professionally equipped training center with ergonomic seating.