The Anti-Deficiency Act and the surge

Civil servants who spend money the Congress hasn’t appropriated risk jail. So I’m not sure GWB could actually get an order to defy the Congress (should it refuse to fund the proposed escalation in Iraq) obeyed by the tens of thousands of individuals who would have to sign the paperwork to supply and pay the troops.

I think there’s an answer to Jonathan’s question below: what if Congress doesn’t appropriate the money to support more troops in Iraq but the President spends it anyway? The answer is in the Anti-Deficiency Act, which not only makes unappropriated spending a criminal offense, but assigns criminal liability not just to the person who orders the spending but to any official who “obligates” or “expends” the money. Is it unlikely that, under the circumstances, civil servants would go to jail, or lose their jobs? Sure. But “unlikely” may not be good enough to get literally tens of thousands of people to take the risk of paying the troops and paying for, or signing the contracts for, their supplies. So I doubt the President could get his orders obeyed.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: