• The Red Book

    Principles of Federal Appropriations Law, also known as the Red Book, is a multi-volume treatise concerning federal fiscal law. The Red Book provides text discussion with reference to specific legal authorities to illustrate legal principles, their application, and exceptions. These references include GAO decisions and opinions, judicial decisions, statutory provisions, and other relevant sources.

  • The Publication Process

    With the publication of the first chapters of the Fourth Edition of Principles of Federal Appropriations Law (the Red Book), we are also implementing several changes to our publication process.

    • The Fourth Edition will be published chapter-by-chapter as chapters become ready, while previous editions were published as multi-chapter volumes. The table of contents below provides a brief description of each published chapter.
    • We will publish a new edition once every several years, as we have done in the past. A new edition is a complete update and is the result of hundreds of hours of research and verification of the currency of every cited work, whether that work comes from GAO, a court, or any other source.
    • We will publish an annual revision, which refreshes the Red Book content with new GAO appropriations law decisions or opinions that have been released in the preceding year. The revision will also incorporate any significant court cases of which we are aware. We will begin publishing revisions only for the Fourth Edition. We will publish no revisions for the Third Edition.
    • We will publish a list of changes in new revisions, starting with the 2017 revision to the Fourth Edition. The list covers all of the previous year’s GAO appropriations law decisions or opinions that are discussed in the revision and indicates where in the revision the discussion of the case appears.
    • We will publish a brief summary of changes in each revision, starting with the 2017 revision.
    • We will no longer publish an Annual Update. The annual revision process eliminates the need for the Annual Update. We will also cease publication of an Annual Update for the Third Edition. This will allow us to focus our resources on the publication of the Fourth Edition and its annual revisions.
    • We will no longer print bound volumes of the Red Book. The Fourth Edition is posted on the GAO website in PDF format and can be printed on any office printer.
  • Citing the Red Book

    We suggest that you use the following format to cite, for example, section C.1 of Chapter 2:

    GAO, Principles of Federal Appropriations Law, 4th ed., 2016 rev., ch. 2, § C.1, GAO-16-464SP (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 2016).

  • Contents

    Chapter 1, Introduction This chapter discusses why the congressional power of the purse is fundamental both to appropriations law and to our democratic system of government. It also sets forth GAO’s role in appropriations law and the basic analytical framework for appropriations law problems.
    Chapter 2, The Legal Framework This chapter discusses basic appropriations law terminology and the budget and appropriations process, along with key concepts such as the difference between an authorization and an appropriation.
    Chapter 3, Availability of Appropriations: Purpose Under the Purpose Statute, 31 U.S.C. § 1301, funds are available only for the purpose for which Congress appropriated them.  This chapter discusses the three-step framework used when determining whether appropriations are available for a particular purpose.  This chapter supersedes Chapter 4 of the Third Edition.