Writing in The Hill, Coalition founder & president Jonathan Bydlak takes on the “unknown knowns” of process reform. In other words, original research from the Institute for Spending Reform can provide a useful guide for legislators looking to reform the nation’s broken budget process.

[I]f we are to right the country’s fiscal ship, leaders should beware, to borrow from former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, of the “unknown knowns.”

That is, while we may not know exactly what a well-functioning budget process will look like after a generation of managed chaos, we can know a bit about what not to do — and let that knowledge guide us forward.

According to original research commissioned by the organization I lead, there were several unintended consequences the last time Congress seriously reframed its budgets. The most measurable impact came in the way federal grants have been allocated. There is strong evidence, in fact, that the 1974 Budget Act may have increased importance of federal grants as a tool for building coalitions and encouraging passage of presidential priorities. There is a statistically significant increase in grants awarded to members of the president’s own party during the years following 1974.

…The root of the problem, of course, is not with programs themselves or even with the administrations that have used them but the way in which political actors will use whatever mechanisms of power are available to them — no matter how critical the needs or how much waste might be involved.

Read the full piece here.