The Factors Contributing to Agency-Level Budgetary Patterns in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)




McCreesh, Patrick J.

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Much of the research on federal budgeting focuses on the full budget, budget functions, or departmental budgets. Agency-level budgeting remains a gap in the literature on federal budgeting even though much of the budgeting process happens at the agency level. This unique study explores what factors contribute to agency-level budget authority within the agencies of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and comments on the implications of these findings for the broader literature. While incrementalism remains the dominant theory of budgeting, incrementalism cannot explain the agency-level budget authority in DHS over the first ten years of the Department. Instead, this study highlights alternative hypotheses including the concept of Punctuated Equilibrium. The unique mixed-methods study applies many of the theories and techniques from past budget research to an agency-level analysis by: 1) quantitatively comparing budget authority across all agencies in DHS and 2) presenting two case studies to understand the agency budgeting process in more depth. The findings suggest that while many of the mechanisms of incrementalism apply at the agency-level, Punctuated Equilibrium provides a stronger explanation for the volatility in budgetary outcomes across DHS agencies. The key finding of this study is that significant shifts in funding, even at the agency level, are driven by macro-political actors (the president and Congressional leaders), supporting the theory of Punctuated Equilibrium.



Public policy, Political science, Public administration, Agency budgeting, Budgeting, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Budgeting, Incrementalism, Punctuated Equilibrium