GAO Glossary of Terms and Definitions (September 2005)
Deferral of Budget Authority
Temporary withholding or delaying of the obligation or expenditure of budget authority or any other type of executive action, which effectively precludes the obligation or expenditure of budget authority. A deferral is one type of impoundment. Under the Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (2 U.S.C. § 684), budget authority may only be deferred to provide for contingencies, to achieve savings or greater efficiency in the operations of the government, or as otherwise specifically provided by law.
Budget authority may not be deferred for policy or any other reason.
Deferrals may be proposed by agencies but must be communicated to Congress by the President in a special message. Deferred budget authority may be withheld without further action by Congress. Congress may disapprove a deferral by law. A deferral may not extend beyond the end of the fiscal year of the budget authority’s availability. However, for multiyear funds, the President may re-report the deferral the next fiscal year. Deferred budget authority that is disapproved by Congress must be made available immediately. Agencies must release all other deferred budget authority with sufficient time remaining in the fiscal year to prudently obligate that budget authority before the end of the fiscal year. (See also Apportionment; Budgetary Reserves; Impoundment; Rescission.)