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Thread: Question about a word

  1. #1
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    Question about a word

    I was reading an article about Biden's science budget proposal, and there is a section that reads:

    The Department of Energy’s Office of Science would grow by $400 million, to $7.4 billion. There is no breakout for its major programs cutting across the physical and natural sciences.
    I have never seen the word "breakout" used like that, and was wondering what it means. It is used later in the same article, so it must have some meaning in budgeting. Does anyone know?
    Last edited by Jens; 2021-Apr-12 at 04:41 AM.
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  2. #2
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    I expect it means there is no break out of the details of what the spending is directed to in the statement. I’ve seen that referred to as a breakout or breakdown. Incidentally, in your post you have what looks like an internet link, but it just contains text.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    Incidentally, in your post you have what looks like an internet link, but it just contains text.
    Thanks. I fixed it.
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    I agree that metaphorically, breakout should mean “losing constraint and suddenly. “ Here is seems to mean “no change in relative priorities” or it could mean breakdown in the sense of no news about how the increase will be distributed, in which case breakdown is more understandable.
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    I would have thought "breakout" was more familiar to folks as I'm used to seeing it and I'm usually the last on the list.

    Anyway, "breakout" as "break the details out of the overall report," usually just by listing.

    "Breakdown" implies providing details on the breakout.
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    Thanks. As a clarification, I asked the writer and he confirmed that it means to be listed separately, so just as Van Rijn and Jim explained.


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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    Thanks. As a clarification, I asked the writer and he confirmed that it means to be listed separately, so just as Van Rijn and Jim explained.


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    Interesting, an American usage I had not encountered, but it might also be corporate speak, like the older, “scoping”
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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    Interesting, an American usage I had not encountered, but it might also be corporate speak, like the older, “scoping”
    I hear "breakout" frequently, but I work for a corporation in America, so i don't know if it is American usage, corporate usage, or both.
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    The lack of a breakout was noteworthy there because some departments' budgets do get broken down by Congress, which makes those departments unable to shift money from one project to another. The Department of Defense, for example, does not get one large allocation of money for its total expenses. Congress assigns this much to this type of plane, that much to that type of tank, this much to the buildings & landscaping on bases, that much to recruiting, and so on. I once imagined the idea of a President diverting money from various other things to the Corps of Engineers for work on things like dams & bridges on American land, but that kind of transfer would require Congressional action, not just an executive order, because the amounts for both the CoE and wherever else it would come from are already written into the budget as Congress already passed it. So what they're saying about the Department of Science is that it does not have that constraint; the DoS would be free to assign its own money wherever it wants because Congress is not telling it how it must be divided up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
    The lack of a breakout was noteworthy there because some departments' budgets do get broken down by Congress, which makes those departments unable to shift money from one project to another. The Department of Defense, for example, does not get one large allocation of money for its total expenses. Congress assigns this much to this type of plane, that much to that type of tank, this much to the buildings & landscaping on bases, that much to recruiting, and so on. I once imagined the idea of a President diverting money from various other things to the Corps of Engineers for work on things like dams & bridges on American land, but that kind of transfer would require Congressional action, not just an executive order, because the amounts for both the CoE and wherever else it would come from are already written into the budget as Congress already passed it. So what they're saying about the Department of Science is that it does not have that constraint; the DoS would be free to assign its own money wherever it wants because Congress is not telling it how it must be divided up.
    My understanding of what the Biden Administration just released is sort of a budget outline, and not a formal budget proposal, which would be much more detailed (the article Jens linked to described it as a "list of priorities"). The formal proposal would come later this year, and of course, what Congress finally approves and the President signs may be very different yet.

    Now I'm going to put on my moderator hat. No problems yet, but let's not get into a discussion of what the US President can do, or more particularly, should do, with regard to the budget, or to diverting funds within an approved budget. Thanks,
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
    The lack of a breakout was noteworthy there because some departments' budgets do get broken down by Congress, [...]
    I wouldn't read too much into that. This looks like an out-of-cycle request for discretionary funding. In the normal process of making a budget request, DOE does break it out into line items as shown in their FY21 Budget Request. The linked letter summarizes the President's request, breaking it out to only to the major agency level. The letter concludes with, "We look forward to submitting the President’s Budget with additional detail in the months ahead. I'm pretty sure a breakout will be available then.
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