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Fiscal Law with Mike Davidson (mp3)

Transcript for Fiscal Law with Mike Davidson Podcast

Music Intro

Host:     Welcome to the DHS Office of the General Counsel’s podcast series.  My name is John Besselman.  Today I’m spending time with Mike Davidson, who is the Assistant General Counsel for Appropriations and Fiscal Law.  Did I get that right Mike?

Guest:  Yes, that’s correct.

Host:     O.k., wonderful.  Mike, thanks for sharing your time with us this morning.

Guest:  My pleasure.

Host:     The purpose of what I was asking to come and sit for was to share some of your fiscal knowledge.  I may be the perfect foil for that because I know very little about fiscal law.  So my first question would be this.  What’s the most common misunderstanding that the client would have about fiscal…what he or she can do with federal money?

Guest:  I think, for those that have not been in the federal government for a long time I think the biggest misunderstanding is that we’re not the private sector.  You know the private sector really doesn’t have a lot of rules.  We do.  As a general rule, you know, fiscal law expects you to live off your salary, to show up at work, to feed yourself, to clothe yourself, to entertain yourself, and to show up to work, you know, ready to go to work.  On the flip side, though, I think a lot of people don’t understand there’s a lot of exceptions to general rule and a lot of flexibility and that if you come to a fiscal lawyers early enough in the process that we can help you get to where you want to go.  Like, for example, you know you can’t throw a party for someone who’s retiring and use appropriated funds.  But you can give an award to that individual for sustained superior service and have light refreshments as part of that ceremony.

Host:     I think that’s leads to some of my confusion on a personal basis and I know money is earmarked, if you will, or painted, to me…now I’m just using my non-fiscal language, so please don’t make fun of me

Guest:  Sure.

Host:     The, ah, I know the different categories of funds come out and that’s how they’re earmarked or appropriated, and then I see them used in different ways.  So I know there’s different stovepipes or different colors of monies that are used and that’s what causes confusion to me because I can see things like why can’t we use it for this if we can use it for that.  And I, if it makes you feel any better, I always run to a fiscal lawyer because this is the one thing that can send you to jail.  You can be wrong about a lot of different things but I know that people can get into a lot of trouble by how we use appropriated money.  So we, the client is sometimes has some confusions.  I have confusions.  What do you think the most common misunderstandings from someone in my position, a non-fiscal lawyer, about how we can use appropriated money?

Guest:  Well, ah, fiscal law is completely different from other areas of the law.  If you look at any other body of law something is permitted unless it’s prohibited.  In fiscal law you can’t spend any money unless you have authority to.  Ah, and that comes right out of the Constitution where it says no money shall be drawn from the treasury but in consequence of an appropriation made by law.  And there’s a famous Supreme Court called United States v. McCollum, where the Supreme Court basically articulated this point saying that the established rule is that the expenditure of public funds is proper only when authorized by Congress.  Not that public funds may be expended unless prohibited by Congress.  So, legally we’re kind of a little bit different from the rest of the world.

 

Host:     So that’s why I can’t buy those coffee cups and coins with federally appropriated money?

Guest:  Well, yes and no.  And, ah, again, the general rule with coins and mugs is and things like that is if it’s in the nature of a gift it’s a personal expense.  Fiscal law expects you to spend your own money to give gifts to people.  It’s what we call, to the extent there’s humor in fiscal law, the O-W-N account.  Your own money.  And there’s also a special pot of money called the official reception and representation funds, which are usually held by a component head or secretary for that sort of stuff.  So you cannot use appropriated funds for like gifts or swag at conferences or mementoes or protocol items.  Like if a visiting dignitary shows up you can’t give him a coin or mug or something like that.  You’re not supposed to with appropriated funds.  And, I guess a controversial topic, there’s no real law enforcement exchange exception to this where one cop can, you know, exchange coins with another using appropriated funds.  But on the flip side of that is, and there’s an exception to everything, you know, if you give out these items as a bona fide  award to somebody, like an example, a spot award.  You have an employee that’s doing a great job, you can use it, you know, whip out a coin and to award them on the spot, or a coffee mug or a hat.  Whatever you want to do.  And we also have some flexibility in DHS that some agencies don’t have.  Our policies allow spot awards like a coin to a non-federal person.  And the idea is this is the form of an honorary award and the example of that is where a state and local cop is helping you with an investigation or one that’s been particularly helpful to, you know, your organization and retires, you give them a coin or something to that individual.  Or a guest speaker at a conference.  The only, again, the only caveat to that sort of stuff is, with respect to contractors, if you’re going to give a coin or something to them, you need to do it through the contracting officer because it’s a reflection on performance.  And the contracting officer really controls the agency’s performance reviews of the contractor.

Host:     Oh, so we’d be giving a contractor some special little award and find out the contractor on some other level wasn’t performing and meeting the contract and that could cause, would that cause us some problems in some other fashion?

Guest:  Yeah, I mean, you know, to give you a war story.  When I was in the army we had one group give this very laudatory letter to a contractor they had worked with and give him, ah, some sort of, ah, token gift or something like that as an honorary award.  And then at a larger level we had had a lot of problems with the same contractor.  So, we wanted to take some sort of contract action against them.  And it really kind of undermined our efforts because someone was rewarding them for the performance at the same time that, um, you know, we wanted to take some sort of contracting action against them.

Host:     I think the part of my confusion and the reason that there is some confusion is because of those exceptions, because we see people getting, we see them getting cups and coins.  And we know that they exist.  Sometimes maybe that’s being done inappropriately, but you’re saying there are certainly certain situations where there is an exception that covers it.  So that when I extrapolate from that, that’s what going to get me into trouble?

Guest:  Like I said, there’s a lot of hard and fast rules.  But there’s also a lot of exceptions.  You know, fiscal law can be very complicated.  It’s not bowling.  You know, its, it takes a lot of time and effort to get really knowledgeable about it.  But as a general rule, if, if there’s a mission you need to achieve and you’re not sure how to get it, you know, a fiscal attorney can usually get you there or get you pretty close or at least get you there in an avenue , that you, you are unaware of.

Host:     Well, absent having access to a fiscal lawyer, which is always best, ah, where else might I get some of this, these resources?  What else might I use to determine what I am about to do is or say is O.K. to do, is appropriate?

Guest:  Well, there’s a lot of them.  I mean, I often get that question.  “Mike, you know, where to I learn more about this very exciting body of law?”  I think, ah, probably the best treatise is what’s called the GAO Red Book, Principals of Appropriations Law.  And, and, ah, up until it actually was physically located in this large red binder and that’s why it’s called the Red Book.  But if you go to the GAO.gov website, they have the Red Book there on the internet.  And, um, and all the cases and reports and things like that.  And the Red Book is a really good start.  It, it basically covers all the fiscal issues pretty well.  And if you need the, ah, something, a more detailed answer then you can go to a fiscal attorney.  The Army JAG School puts out a really good fiscal law book.  The JAG CNET, I think, it was open to the public.  I’m sure it’s going to be open again.  Right now they’re having some issues.  But, I mean, if you can get a copy of that, that’s really good.  Also, you know, there’s the Office of Legal Counsel, which is part of the Department of Justice.  They periodically issue opinions on fiscal matters.  Some court cases.  And, you know, there’s various magazines and periodical that have articles about various fiscal law.  But I think the one, ah, resource if you going to go to anything is the GAO Red Book because it really is very comprehensive.  And its, ah, it’s a real page turner.

Host:     I’m going to question that, though I’ve never heard of it to this very moment.  Good to know that there’s a resource out there.  I don’t always have a fiscal attorney right around the corner for me.  O.k., so I’m going to hit you with one, uh, that’s come up in my career.  I won’t attribute it to any particular group or person but it’s come up repeatedly.  “Well, John, we’re going to market with my agency’s name and, ah, um, emblem.  So it’s really an advertising for what we do.  So, we can give that way, right?”

Guest:  Well, I mean, that raises a lot of issues.  You know, we, we partner a lot with Ethics because when we, ah, market something we can’t look like we are endorsing somebody.  So, the Ethics people get a lot of, ah, get involved at all.  But there’s also a lot of restrictions on called covert propaganda and lobbying and things like that.  There’s nothing wrong with using appropriated funds to put out your agency message.  But, you know, you have to be clear with the public and be transparent that the message coming out is from your agency.  Otherwise, there’s a restriction on what, I guess, is called covert propaganda.  And you can’t self-aggrandize.  It can’t be a partisan message, really can’t be a political message.  There’s a number of restrictions there.  But again, if you’re a little confused about what the restrictions are, that’s what people like me are there to get you, to get you…

Host:     So, I’m going to get to speak to a fiscal attorney and an Ethics attorney and they’re going to tell me “don’t put that out there.  We, we don’t give away leather jackets with our agency’s emblem on them.”

Guest:  That’s an outreach item.  And there a lot of restrictions on outreach items.  And, ah, and I think there’s more and more.  I think there’s a secretarial efficiency memo that came out with Secretary Napolitano.  Largely because they are tightening back on those sort of things.  There, there are, you know, avenues to get out your message with things like that.  But again, that’s something that you, you would probably want to, ah, touch base with us.  And if, if we think there’s ethics issue, we pull in the Ethics folks as well.

Host:     And it seems like that letter or that tightening back came with the use of the agencies coins.  Coins became very popular maybe five, ten years ago.  And, ah that, then the word came down.  People come to you and say “I want to get our message out.”  What would that entitle us to do?

Guest:  Well, again, the general rule is you can use appropriated funds to explain your, your mission and position to the general public.  So, that’s why we send guest speakers out to explain things or, you know, we can put news clippings out.  But, ah, again there’s restrictions on that.  And even on outreach items, you know, um, like if, if you want to give an outreach item out to some state or local entity so that they know how to contact you, in case it’s something we have a real mission focus on comes up, you know, that sort of thing we can work with you on.  But you don’t want to give out stuff like swag, you know, just give out stuff.  Because then it’s more in the nature of a gift than anything that’s really linked to your core mission.  And, and that’s when we have a lot of heartburn, fiscally.

Host.  Agreed.  That’s a, that’s a good divining line.  A gift versus the, ah, notification or outreach.  Mike, what’s a comptroller?

Guest:  Well, ah, ah, a comptroller…we, ah, we don’t really use that term so much at DHS.  But, but basically, it’s a person that’s responsible for the supervision and quality of accounting and financial reporting, ah, in an organization.  It’s more common in the military than it is in civilian agencies.  And, ah, it’s, in our case it’s probably synonymous with the Chief Financial Officer.  The person that’s in charge of all the finances.  Also, there’s, there’s the term’s used, um, elsewhere within the federal government.  For example, the Comptroller General of the General Accountability Office, has the comptroller title and he’s, he’s, his mission is to respond, ah, to ensure the accountability of the federal government.  There’s an Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which is a Department of Treasury, ah, um, organization, and their mission is to supervise banks from a financial perspective.

Host:     That’s not something we’re interested in.  When I hear something, when someone says to me “well, there’s a Comptroller General’s decision” that sounds like it comes from the GAO Office?  Is that right?

Guest:  Right.  The Comptroller General is the director or head of the Accountability Office.  And again, he has a responsibility for accountability of federal funds.  So, he’ll oftentimes or his staff will issue legal opinions on how you can and cannot use federal funds.  And certifying officers have a, a statutory right to go to the Comptroller General because they are oftentimes held personally liable for the expenditure of funds.  So they want to make sure that if, in a controversial case, that what they are doing is legally proper.

Host:     Well, personally liable catches my attention.  And that’s why, I don’t know this area of the law, I stay away from it.  Let me ask you about a different topic.  Accepting donations from the outside.  Can we do this?

Guest:  Yes and No.

Host:     Yeah, I’m not going to ask you any easy questions, am I?

Guest:  Well, I can’t, can’t give you a straight answer.  You know, a yes or no answer.  As a general rule, an, an agency cannot accept gifts without statutory authority because it’s considered an improper augmentation of your appropriations.  Congress only gives you so much money and they expect you to operate within, within your budget.  But there are statutory exceptions.  For example, the Department of Homeland Security has a gift acceptance statute which authorizes the Secretary to accept gifts that would be used to facilitate the work of DHS.  And the Secretary has delegated his authority down to various component heads throughout DHS.  So, you personally probably could not accept a gift on, behalf of the agency but, but there’s a mechanism in place for your agency or your component to accept.  Ah, and our authority also extends to conditional gifts where someone says “I’m giving you this amount of money but only for this purpose.”  Ah, and we can accept it under those sort of terms and conditions.  Also, there’s, there’s other statutes.  There’s like 13 USC 1353 which allows a person to accept a gift of travel from a non-federal entity.  For example, if, you know, the Chamber of Commerce in Pittsburgh wants you to come out and talk about you know, webcasts or something, and is willing to pay your expenses, you know, there’s a mechanism in place to, to allow us to accept that.  And, and you should and even the term gift is, ah, a term of art.  Not everything we get from somebody is, is a gift that you have to go through this, this, ah, statutory acceptance process.  For example, I used to advise our law enforcement folks.  And there’s certain types of assistance that we get from victims of crime that, um, are traditional assistance that law enforcement gets and would not constitute a gift.  For example, if you go to a corporation and want to interview people, witnesses, and they make their facilities available.  I mean, the fact that they are giving you office space is not really a gift.  It, it’s just a normal type of acceptance, assistance a victim of a crime gives.  Or, sort of like ransom money.  I mean, we’ll like get ransom money to help, ah, someone that’s been kidnapped or something like that, or…  Law enforcement would not treat that as a gift to the agency.  That’s more the…falls into sort of the assistance bucket.

Host:     So, let me see if I understand augmentation of funds right.  Because this was something I went for twenty years of my federal career and didn’t really quite understand.  A fiscal lawyer explained it to me.  Congress gives us, office X, so much money in and expects, you mentioned, expects you to operate within that.  I never thought it was a problem for us to accept resources if people wanted to or outside entities want to give us more.  However, it was explained to me, no, Congress wants to cap what your resources are at this and when you accept outside your, ah, violating the will of Congress.  Is that an accurate reflection on what that means, augmentation of funds?

Guest:  Yes, its, I mean, it all goes to Congress’ power of the purse.  An augmentation refers to, to an action by an agency that, that in effect, increases the amount of, of funds available to the agency’s appropriation.  And, it, it’s not so much a law as it comes from, ah, a different, several other sources of law.  For example, the Constitution.  Again, no money shall be drawn from the treasury but in consequences of an appropriation.  It comes from a couple of statutes.  The purpose statute.  For example, ah, you know, Congress give, ah, say ICE money to do ICE things.  It doesn’t give ICE money to do Coast Guard things.  So if ICE spends ICE money on the Coast Guard its augmenting the Coast Guard’s budget and violating the purpose statute for ICE.  There’s also the thing called the miscellaneous receipts statute, which basically says that any money received by an officer of the government for the government has to go to the Treasury Department, unless there’s some sort of statutory authority to keep it.  So, if you get, someone gives us a big pot of money for some reason we can’t keep it because we’d be augmenting our appropriations, unless we, um, had statutory authority to retain it.  And, and there’s a lot of statutes.  Again, this, this is why you would go to a fiscal attorney.  I mean, there’s, for example, like there’s the False Claims Act.  Where, you know, when the government receives a recovery of money because someone’s defrauded us, the False Claims Act allows the government to retain triple damages.  But of that money the victim, including a federal agency, can retain single damages.  There’s that sort of stuff.  There’s, um, and there’s ways to get around it.  There’s the, like the Miscellaneous Receipts Act only applies to the receipt of money.  It doesn’t apply, uh, apply to the receipt of, ah, goods or services.  There’s other laws that impact on that.  And the example I usually give when I talk about is, if you’re in a GOV and you get in an accident and it’s not your fault, ah, the insurance company is going to cut a check to the agency.  O.k., we have no statutory authority to keep that insurance money.  Even though we have to fix our own car.  So, if we kept the money, it would be an improper augmentation and it would violate the Miscellaneous Receipts Act.  But the law doesn’t preclude us from accepting, from the insurance company, ah, the repair of the car itself.  So, we, we would tell the insurance company instead of giving us money to fix our GOV, we want you to pay directly some shop to pix, ah, to fix the GOV.  And, and that’s perfectly acceptable.

Host:     Another perfect use for a fiscal lawyer.

Guest:  Right.  That’s why we’re here.

Host:     O.k.  I got another one for you.

Guest:  O.k.

Host:     I have, for years, wanted to not be deficient.  I, I, it sounds like I would like to be anti-deficient but you’re going to tell me no, that’s a terrible thing to be.  Anti-deficient.  What does that mean?

Guest:  The, ah, it refers to the Anti-Deficiency Act, which is actually more than one act.  It’s actually several acts.  And the most common prohibition is that the ADA prohibits the obligation or expenditure in advance of or excess of an appropriation.  And there’s a whole bunch of terms of art there.  For example, first of all an obligation is not where you actually spend money.  It’s where you incur a legal obligation to spend money.  So, even if you don’t spend the money, if you obligate the money, it, it triggers the ADA.  And, to give you an example, um, if you award a contract this fiscal year for work to be done next fiscal year, without taking certain prophylactic steps, you’ve incurred an obligation in advance of next year’s appropriate.  Which would then violate the ADA, with the, but, you know, the way we get around that is we have contracting people use what’s called a “subject to availability of funds” clause, which basically means we incur no legal obligation until we actually get the money.  So that, um, you know, we don’t violate the ADA.  Also, if there’s no money available for a particular purpose, and there’s a lot of prohibitions on spending money, you’re, and you spend the money on that particular purpose, you know you can’t really, you can’t fix that because, its in, it’s in excess of an appropriation because your appropriation for that purpose is zero.  So, you know, there’s, there’s a lot that goes into it.  There’s, anytime you, you violate the purpose of your appropriations, or the time, the availability to obligate the appropriations, or the amount.  These all can ripen into ADA violations if they’re not corrected, ah, usually within the same fiscal year or the current availability of the funds.  And, this is, this is pretty significant because, ah, there’s administrative and criminal consequences associated with an ADA violation.  I, I’m unaware of anyone actually ever getting prosecuted for one.  I, I am aware of criminal referrals for ADA violations within the federal government.  But people are administratively punished.  And, and the thing I think that gets most people’s attention is that if there’s an ADA violation, the Secretary signs a notification.  The Secretary signs a notification in which the responsible person is identified by, by position.  And that report goes to the President, both Houses of Congress, ah, the Comptroller General, and the Office of Management and Budget.  So, it’s kind of a big deal to have you identified to, basically, everybody who’s anyone in the federal government as being responsible for an Anti-Deficiency Act violation.

Host:     Where do you put that on your resume?

Guest:  It’s, it’s not, it’s not a career-enhancing move.

Host:     Ya, it doesn’t sound…All the more reason I’ve always turn to a fiscal lawyer.  What you’re convincing me of that I should continue my course.

Guest:  Yeah, and having said that, you know, most of the ones I’ve seen at DHS, they’re, its really been, ah, ei, either because someone didn’t know what they were doing and didn’t go to a fiscal attorney.  Or it was just a series of consequences that, ah, you know, sometimes we just have no control over.  So, it’s, it’s pretty rare that someone knowingly violates the Anti-Deficiency Act.

Host:     Let me ask you a more localized, ah, lower level question.  Why can’t I use construction money to buy office supplies?

Guest:  Yeah, that basically goes again to the purpose statute, which basically says that, you know, you can only use the funds for the purpose for which Congress has given you them.  So, if you have construction funds, you have to use them for construction.  If you have office supply funds, which is usually in your salaries and expenses account, you know, you have to use it for those salaries and expenses sort of things.  And, and even then there’s a lot of flexibility.  There’s what’s called the necessary expense doctrine, where, if, like say, Congress give you, ah, money for, say you’re the, the DHS security force…you know, Congress doesn’t say, you know, use it for badges or guns or something like that.  It says, you know, use it for those expenses necessary for a security force.  So, a necessary expense of that would be something like, you know, a badge, or, or a weapon, or, you know, um, canines, or whatever it takes to operate.

Host:     I’ve seen some categories as equipment.

Guest:  Yes.

Host:     And then we define, or will have an argument or conversation about what qualifies as equipment under that.  How, how would I get clarity on whether something qualifies as equipment versus office supplies versus construction versus etcetera?  How do I know?

Guest:  Well, the, the equipment thing is really not that controversial.  I mean, ah, with, within like a salaries expenses, you know, there’s salaries, there’s office supplies, there’s equipment.  It’s a pretty broad umbrella of what you can buy.  The flip side is where you have problems.  If you use non-construction money for construction, not only is it a purpose violation, but there’s two other statutes that are triggered.  There’s 41 USC 6303, which requires construction money to be used specifically if you’re going to do construction.  You have to have an appropriation for construction.  And there’s also a criminal statute, which a lot of people don’t know about.  18 USC 435, which criminalizes the knowing, knowingly entering into a contract for construction without construction money.  And a lot of people don’t know that that statute is out there, so, I mean, that gets people’s attention when we have these construction issues come up.

Host:     Well, I’m never going to authorize a construction site, but what qualifies as construction?

Guest:  Yeah, there’s, there’s a good definition of construction in the federal acquisition regulation.  And, and it includes things like, ah, you know, repair and alterations and things like that, which so you don’t really have to actually just build a building.  There’s a lot more that goes into it, that falls short of building the building that triggers the construction trigger.  Ah, and again, you know, we’re a little bit different from DOD.  DOD has a separate set of statutes on minor and major construction that we don’t yet have.  So, our definition of construction is a lot broader than, ah, I think, you know, maybe something in DOD.

Host:     So, you said “yet.”  Something’s coming?  Is there something we should be looking for?

Guest:  Yeah.  I think.  We are going to, ah, in terms of budget generally, you know, I, I, I think, ah, before I came on the podcast we were talking about, you know, what basically types of budgets we have.  You know, I mean, everybody has sort of a salaries and expenses part of their budget, which, ah, all your mission-related stuff.  And then there’s a lot of other types of unique pots of money that all the various components have.  Right now, in DHS we have about 70 different appropriations and over 600 program projects and activities, ah, which are sort of how you break down, um, these various account.  And we’re going to get away from that.  In fiscal year ’17, which starts October 1, the Department is moving to what’s called a common appropriations structure where we’re going to group just basically all these accounts into four basic types of accounts.  We’re going to have an operations and support account, procurement, construction and improvement, financial assistance, and research and development.  And the idea behind this is we’re going to standardized our budgeting and, ah, programing across the whole homeland security enterprise.  It makes it a lot easier to track money.  And it, for example, the ONS account, that closely resembles your salaries and expenses account.  You know, there’s regular operations salaries, mission support, headquarters and management.  And, and the way we’re writing it up, there’s probably going to be minor construction.  A little bit like DOD does it, that we don’t currently do it.  Currently, construction and improvements, that’s where you are going to have your larger dollar constructions.  Ah, like the major military constructions that DOD has in their statutory regime.  And, ah, financial assistance is all going to be your grants and your disaster assistance.  And research and development sort of speaks for itself.  And this, this is going to be brand new.  We’ve never done this before.  It’s a major, major transition for our financial folks.  We, we already got permission from Congress to do this.  It’s in our FY ’17 budget.  Congress is on board.  OMB is on board.  The, I think the President is on board.  There’s going to be a lot of growing pains with this.  So, the, ah, the DOJ ha, or, I’m sorry, the Department of Homeland Security has their financial management policy manual.  We, we’re going to have to write basically policy that, to, make this thing happen.  One person, you know, characterized it as flying a plane while you’re building the plane.  So, you know, we’re going to have a lot of growing pains as is, but the idea is we’re going to standardize everything and make it a lot easier from a, a fiscal perspective to control our funds and account for them.

Host:     So, that is big news.  That’s a big change in your world.

Guest:  It’s huge.  Huge change.

Host:     And October 1 seems right there on the calendar.  Are we ready?

Guest:  Well, we’re getting there.  We, our office and, ah, the budget folks, ah, put a great deal of effort in setting up this cast system.  Our budget folks have reached out to the components and they’re getting implementing plans.  So that on October first we have a functioning system to go forward.  And then, as we, you know, hit all these little, ah, questions that we weren’t really thinking about as we actually execute something, then, you know, we’re going to put greater, um, guidance in our financial management policy plan to explain these sort of things, because there’s going to be a hundred different questions and we’ve never done this before.  So, really going to be, you know, writing off a clean slate.  So, you know, I, you know, fiscal year ’17 might be a little bumpy but after that is should really smooth out once, once, you know, we figure out exactly how this is supposed to work.

Host:     So that won’t have much effect on a fella like me who doesn’t deal in this particular world.  But those that might be listening that are fiscal lawyers and are focused it, where might they go get more information on this as we're building this plane in flight?

Guest:  Well, like I said, the, the financial management policy manual is going to come up with a lot of guidance.  And it’s going to be, I think, a living document initially.  And then a lot of these issues are just stuff that the fiscal lawyers amongst ourselves will be working out and we’ll be working very closely with our budget people both at headquarters and in all the components to kind of work through all these issues and, because there’s going to be a lot of issues that, you know, no one is really thinking about right now and then all of a sudden will come up and we’ll say “well, yeah, we really hadn’t thought about that.”  You know, how, how does this fit into this cast structure?  And then we’re going to have to achieve a consensus of opinion on, ah, on that.  And, you know, we’ve had some guidance from OMB and things like that as we’ve, you know, started to execute this.

Host:     Well, that sounds like its going to be, ah, in, interesting time in your world.

Guest:  It is an interesting time in our world.

Host:     Mike, I have learned more this morning than I think I could have ever imagined.  I, I’m ah, I appreciate you spending some time with us.  What am I missing?  Because I don’t know what I don’t know?

Guest:  All I would say is, you know, fiscal law is, it can be very complicated and if you run into an issue that you really don’t know how to handle, and, you know, you can look at the GAO Red Book and things like that for good guidance.  But, you, you really should reach out to your fiscal attorney.  Every component has at least one, you know, we have a couple up here at headquarters.  And we deal with client inquiries all the time.  There’s no such thing as a stupid questions.  Some of these issues are very complex.  Some of them can be very controversial.  I mean, if you read the paper about conferences and stuff, I mean, that sort of stuff is getting a lot, a lot of people in a lot of trouble.  You know, and if I think, if they, if they’d reached out to their fiscal attorneys earlier in the process, then, you know, we would not have had these problems.  But at the end of the day, you know, if you have a question, there’s tons of fiscal attorneys in the department, they’re, they get paid to answer your questions and they are more than happy to keep you out of trouble and try to get you where you want to be legally.

Host:     And you’ve mentioned a couple of criminal statutes that caught my attention.  So, all the more important.  I didn’t know that they were out there.  I knew there was bad news of, about spending government money inappropriately.  That’s all I really needed to know to run to a fiscal attorney.  I’m glad to know that you’re out there.  Thank you for spending the morning with us and I appreciate you contributing to the podcast.  Ah, my name is John Besselman, again, and I was able to spend a little time this morning with Mike Davidson, the Assistant General Counsel for Appropriations and Fiscal Law.  Mike, did I get that right?

Guest:  That’s right.

Host:     Thank you, sir.

Guest:  Well, thank you very much for having me, John.

Host:     Alright, I appreciate it.

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