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The Red Book


Principles of Federal Appropriations Law, also known as the Red Book, is GAO’s 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.

Our current Red Book consists of Chapters 1-3 (of the 4th Edition) and Chapters 5-15 (of the 3rd Edition). As we update these chapters, we will also update this table of contents and provide new links. We will no longer publish a separate Annual Update.

Chapters Titles Links
4th Edition, Chapter 1 Introduction
4th Edition, Chapter 2 The Legal Framework
4th Edition, Chapter 3 Availability of Appropriations: Purpose
4th Edition, Chapter 4 Coming soon!  
3rd Edition, Chapter 5 Availability of Appropriations: Time
3rd Edition, Chapter 6 Availability of Appropriations: Amount
3rd Edition, Chapter 7 Obligation of Appropriations
3rd Edition, Chapter 8 Continuing Resolutions
3rd Edition, Chapter 9 Liability and Relief of Accountable Officers
3rd Edition, Chapter 10 Federal Assistance: Grants and Cooperative Agreements
3rd Edition, Chapter 11 Federal Assistance: Guaranteed and Insured Loans
3rd Edition, Chapter 12 Acquisition of Goods and Services
3rd Edition, Chapter 13 Real Property
3rd Edition, Chapter 14 Claims Against and By the Government
3rd Edition, Chapter 15 Miscellaneous Topics

The Publication Process

With the publication of the first chapters of the 4th 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.
  • 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 accuracy 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 4th Edition. We will publish no revisions for the 3rd Edition.
  • We will publish a list of changes in new revisions, starting with the 2017 revision to the 4th 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 3rd Edition. This will allow us to focus our resources on the publication of the 4th Edition and its annual revisions.
  • We will no longer print bound volumes of the Red Book. The 4th 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).

GAO Contacts

If you have any questions about our case law or the text in the Red Book, please e-mail

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