HHS Reference Tool for Contract Funding, Formation and Appropriations Law Compliance
The term “continuing resolution” (CR) means “an appropriation act that provides budget authority for federal agencies, specific activities, or both to continue in operation when Congress and the President have not completed action on the regular appropriation acts [covering all or a subset of all federal agencies] by the beginning of the fiscal year.” (Source: GAO, A Glossary of Terms Used in the Federal Budget Process, GAO-05-734SP, September 2005, pp. 35—36.)
CRs are not uncommon. In 30 of the 34 fiscal years between 1977 and 2010, Congress and the President did not complete action on the majority of the 13 regular appropriation acts by the start of the fiscal year, including the appropriation for HHS. In many of those 30 fiscal years, Congress has issued multiple CRs, of varying durations, that extended funding for agencies’ operations for the period specified in the CR, pending passage of a permanent appropriation for that fiscal year. However, in some of those fiscal years, Congress and the President have been unable reach a budgetary agreement and the entire federal government operated under a year-long series of CRs.
Most CRs are temporary, stop-gap measures enacted by Congress to keep existing federal programs functioning after the expiration of previous budget authority and until regular appropriation acts can be enacted (B-300673, July 3, 2003). Given this start/stop/start cycle, CRs create contract funding challenges that contracting activities must address to ensure achievement of HHS mission objectives and compliance with both federal appropriations law and the FAR. Because the terms of CRs may vary, for each CR, specific operating guidance will be issued at the Departmental level by the Assistant Secretary for Financial Resources (ASFR), e.g., to indicate the availability of funds for existing and new projects or activities; identify any specific limits or constraints; and establish the authorized level and timing of obligations.