Guidelines for Preparing a Legislative Proposal

Legislative proposals must advance the President's Management Agenda and DoD's top legislative priorities. The President's Management Agenda usually is available on the Office of Management and Budget Web site.

DoD's top legislative priorities usually are available in an attachment to the Department's annual memorandum calling for legislative proposals ("call memo"). Be prepared to demonstrate that your legislative proposal candidate is consistent with at least one of DoD's top legislative priorities.

Meet Threshold Considerations:

The DoD General Counsel oversees the DoD Legislation Program. It authorizes the Office of Legislative Counsel (OLC) to accept only legislative proposals that meet certain threshold considerations:

  • Proposals must be a matter of last resort only (Administrative or other remedies must be unavailable or unavailing.)
  • Proposals should be drafted for general application with broad authority to act (Proposals should attempt to combine ministerial statutory adjustments into general management initiatives in which statutory restraints and prohibitions are removed.)
  • Proposals may not limit the Secretary of Defense's authority to manage the DoD
  • Proposals may not create a new reporting requirement

DoD General Counsel may reject any proposal that he/she deems improper or unwise.

Meet Administrative Requirements:

The Department's annual "call memo" sets forth specific administrative requirements for a legislative proposal. OLC is authorized to accept only legislative proposals that comply with such administrative requirements:

  • Clear and concise legislative language
  • A section by section analysis of the legislative language written in a style that would be persuasive to a layman
  • The name and contact information for a designated expert who either wrote the proposal or understands it completely
  • The name and contact information of the appointee or high-level official who will advocate for the proposal publicly
  • Certification that the proposal has been reviewed by the proponent's own General Counsel and cleared by the Agency Head
  • If the proposal is a resubmission from a previous year, provide a detailed justification for resubmission
  • If the proposal is budget related, provide a statement of budget implications, including costs, savings, and pay as you go (Pay Go) concerns

Pay Go

For each budget related legislative proposal, Congress routinely requires a detailed economic analysis. Any proposal that will either cost money or save money must be accompanied by a cost/impact analysis. The only exception to this rule is a legislative proposal involving very minor operation and maintenance adjustments. If an initiative will cost money, the sponsor must identify offsets for the amount of the proposal (effectively paying for it).

The sponsor must coordinate with the Comptroller to discuss potential offsets. Also, for each legislative proposal that costs money, the sponsor must include specific information consistent with DoD's two-year budget cycle. During an "on" year, the sponsor must provide to the Comptroller a Budget Estimate Submission. During an "off" year, the sponsor must include and identify funding in the President's budget baseline, or include funding in a Component Budget Proposal and execution review.

Ultimately, OMB incorporates all costs or savings associated with a new legislative proposal into the President's annual budget request. OMB will not clear any proposal that has cost implications without a budgetary impact estimate for the next five fiscal years.

Moving from Preliminary Draft to Final Draft Proposal:

The small size of the OLC staff precludes it from drafting from scratch each of the more than 300 legislative proposals initiated each year. As a practical necessity, OLC requires everyone to provide their own preliminary draft proposals. This also helps to ensure that the proponent for a proposal engages in appropriate circumspection before submitting the proposal to OLC.

The OLC staff can help to perfect preliminary drafts into final drafts, and OLC can arrange for training for those who want to enhance their own drafting proficiency.

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