It was while doing my time in academia that I was first introduced to zero based budgeting. We learned in a political science class on government finance that the new Governor of Georgia, a peanut farmer named Jimmy Carter, was actually implementing ZBB. Gov. Carter ‘s zero based budgeting created a stir among the states long before he set out for Iowa to run for President in 1976. ZBB was not new. Texas Instruments in the 1960s had used it and that story was featured it in the Harvard Business Review in 1970. But when Gov. Carter brought ZBB to state government in 1973, it was huge. His doing zero based budgeting stirred interest by the other states, and it when he unpacked at the White House in 1977, he had ZBB with him. From 1977 through 1994, the federal government practiced zero-based budgeting. To what extent ZBB contributed to the budget surpluses turned in by the Clinton administration, I can’t say. Budget writers generally don’t like zero-based budgeting. It requires a lot of mental gymnastics. Starting at zero means there is a lot of “show your work” exercises. Now we seem to use autopilot budgeting. I guess you could say for food safety, it’s a good news/bad news story. Federal domestic agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) are pretty much assured of getting the same amount they got last year plus a inflationary factor. The bad news is the Budget Control Act of 2011 requires federal domestic agencies, including FDA, FSIS and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make fiscal year 2013 cuts of 8.2 percent. This automatic budget sequestration is why federal food safety is very much in the canoe and there are no paddles or lifejackets. The canoe is being swept near the “fiscal cliff” and it may go over. Nobody in that small circle of “deciders” knows or cares that FDA’s mandate to step-up the nation’s overall food safety game or that FSIS charge of providing continuous inspection of meat and poultry is market-driven. Going over the cliff means FDA losses $318 million on its 3.9 billion budget and FSIS would bout $86 million on its annual appropriation of about $1 billion. From there my bet is that it will get ugly. It will probably be awhile before anyone will listen, but I think we need a new system Maybe one where we start from zero and everyone shows their work.