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Case Study 12: Death of a Spy Satellite Program
Key actors in the budgetary process include bureau chiefs, the Executive Budget Office, legislators, interest groups, individuals, and the courts. Bureau chiefs largely decide the needed budget for their perspective administration. Due to their own motivations bureau chiefs may persistently pursue extended
budgets to expand their organizations and influence, or they may choose to decline budget increases in order to keep their bureaus more manageable. The Executive Budget Office’s primary mission is to screen budgeting requests coming from below and to scrutinize the requesting administrations motivations and necessities. Legislators too are greatly motivated by their own personal desires. Individuals filling these billets may either be motivated by re-election, seeing their position in office as a career which must be maintained, or they may be motivated individuals using budgeting to do what they feel is truly best for society. Interest groups pushing for increased or lessened budgets in their own perspective issues influence decisions by holding the capability of mobilizing large numbers of people and media attention in their cause. Individuals generally do not hold much weight beyond the vote they cast at the poll. However, when large numbers of individuals feel a certain way this is reflected in their voting and this may be represented further by government officials acting in the name of the people. Courts impact budgeting by setting precedence in their decisions regarding the legality of budgeting practices and also in meeting or denying citizen demands for increased budgeting on various items and agendas.
Budgeting constraints had multiple negative effects in this case. From the very beginning a constrained budge assigned by congress caused bidding companies to sacrifice design and to under-bid with plain intention to “win the program at any cost and sort it out later” (Fitzgerald, Public Administration: Concepts
and Cases, pg 365). So, the project was a losing battle from the start, particularly for Boeing as a company with no experience in the satellite field.
Another major contributing factor in the failure of this project were the steep penalties for diverging from set timelines agreed upon in the contract. And was only a problem due to Boeing employees’ failure to plan properly, execute, and exceeding lack of integrity. Due to these factors inept Boeing employees
consistently submitted optimistic reports through its own oversight programs stating that the project was on track.
Political factors in the case involve the military and government intelligence agencies push towards increased capabilities through new technology as well as Congress’s failure to decide upon a realistic time line and budget for such this project. Projects such as this contend with a plethora of other government projects. Each of these various projects and agendas has its advocates. In light of the scale of all of the various government projects and funding necessary it is impossible to envision any group of agencies or departments capable of sorting through them all to create a clear picture of what is
necessary and important compared to what is not or what is just slightly less. Certainly the individuals which decided upon the budget for this project did not have failure in mind. However, individuals charged with decisions like this covering such a wide spectrum of projects cannot possibly achieve the level of
knowledge necessary to make complete and informed decisions regarding each and every one of them.