While the words "budget review process" have a lovely, precise ring to them, this annual ritual is so thoroughly revised every fall that it is hard to tell which working group or task force or ad hoc coalition is doing what.
So, for would-be aficionados of the spend/cut, tax/don't-tax battles being waged in this post-election, pre-budget season, here is a bureaucratic glossary:
* The White House Budget Working Group, referred to by some Office of Management and Budget wags as "the Gang of Twelve." This group was formally constituted after the election and is "designed to get senior White House staff into the whole budget process at the beginning, to develop a grand strategy" of budget cuts for President Reagan to approve, according to OMB spokesman Edwin L. Dale Jr. It offers a formal forum for talks that would be held anyway among the administration's key actors.
The group, not to be confused with the slightly lower-level and more tightly focused Entitlement Task Forces of two years ago, met for the first time on Nov. 12. It includes Vice President Bush, White House counselor Edwin Meese III, White House chief of Staff James A. Baker III, Deputy Chief of Staff Michael K. Deaver, presidential aides Richard G. Darman, Craig Fuller, John A. Svahn (head of the policy development office), M.B. Oglesby (legislative affairs chief), Council of Economic Advisers member William A. Niskanen, Treasury Secretary Donald T. Regan, Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige and OMB Director David A. Stockman.
* The Director's Review. The annual process that takes place within OMB and involves agency-by-agency cutbacks, a process guided by grand strategies but also involving line-by-line review of each agency's budget. The meetings always include Stockman and often the individual agency analyst, as well as such OMB heavies as Donald W. Moran, executive associate director for the budget and legislative affairs division, Cary Modlin, head of the Budget Review shop, Associate Directors John Cogan (human resources, veterans and labor) and Frederick N. Khedouri (natural resources, energy and science) and some of their subordinates. This year, these reviews -- often under way by Thanksgiving -- will await Reagan's decisions on the strategies proposed by the White House Budget Working Group.
* The Passback. The scaled-down version of the individual agency budget requests as edited by OMB, or, more simply, what OMB wants the agencies to spend.
* The Scream. What is heard from Cabinet secretaries, assistant secretaries, agency heads and everyone else who sees the passback.
* The Budget Review Board. A triumvirate of Stockman, Meese and Baker. The three serve as a court of appeal for agency heads who oppose OMB's budget cuts. Stockman serves as prosecutor, with the agency head as defendant and Baker and Meese as judges.
* The Budget. The document that comes out of all this.
* Scrooge. A fictional 19th-century budget-cutter whose name may be invoked as specific cuts are made.
* The Holiday Season. What the 50 or so top officials involved in the process won't have time for. FOR YOUR INFORMATION, FOIA FANS . . .
Last spring, OMB issued a policy directive placing broad new curbs on citizens' access to government records. But at the time, OMB told agencies to use caution in applying the standards, since its guidance contradicted decisions by some federal appeals courts.
This fall, Congress made OMB's directive moot, and may have done the same for the Justice Department's pending appeal of the appeals court decisions. Tacked onto the administration-backed CIA Information Act of 1984 was an amendment sponsored by Reps. John N. Erlenborn (R-Ill.) and Glenn English (D-Okla.), which stated that the restrictive provisions of government privacy laws could not be used to deny otherwise valid requests made under the Freedom of Information Act. HOW NOT TO LOBBY WITH FEDERAL FUNDS . . .
For those who found it hard to follow the minutiae of OMB General Counsel Michael J. Horowitz's two-year battle to regulate lobbying activities by nonprofit groups that receive federal funds, a lobbying group called OMB Watch has put out a $20, three-volume guide of dos and don'ts for nonprofits.
The 150-page work, "Living With A-122," aims to answer questions such as "Who Is Covered?" "What Activities Can't Be Financed With Federal Money?" "What Do I Have to Report to the Government?" and "How Is the Auditing of My Grant Going to Change?".
Shannon Ferguson of OMB Watch gave an emphatic "No" when asked if the volume had been reviewed by Horowitz, who was often at odds with Ferguson during the fights over the rule's development. Horowitz was out of the country and not available for comment.