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Making Sense of the Federal Reserve

Introduction to the FOMC

Introduction to the FOMC

The Federal Open Market Committee, or FOMC, is the Fed's chief body for monetary policy. Its voting membership combines the seven members of the Board of Governors, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and four other Reserve Bank presidents, who serve one-year terms on a rotating basis with the other Reserve Bank presidents. All Reserve Bank presidents attend FOMC meetings, however, even when they are not designated voting members. By tradition, the chair of the FOMC is also the Chair of the Board of Governors.

The chart to the left shows the voting schedule for the FOMC. As noted, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and members of the Board of Governors are permanent voting members. Most Reserve Bank presidents serve one-year terms on a three-year rotating schedule; however, the presidents of the Cleveland and Chicago Feds serve on a two-year rotating schedule. For example, in Year 1, the presidents of the Boston, Cleveland, St. Louis, and Kansas City Feds serve as voting members.

The FOMC typically meets eight times a year in Washington, D.C., or by teleconference as necessary. If economic conditions require additional meetings, the FOMC can and does meet more often.

At each regularly scheduled meeting:

• A senior official at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York discusses developments in the financial and foreign exchange markets, as well as activities of the New York Fed's Trading Desk, where U.S. government securities are bought and sold.

• Staff from the Board of Governors then present their economic and financial forecasts.

• The Board's Governors and all 12 Reserve Bank presidents—whether they are voting members that year or not—offer their assessments of recent developments and views on the economic outlook.

Armed with this wealth of up-to-date national, international, and regional information, the FOMC discusses the monetary policy options that would best move the economy toward the “dual mandate” objectives given to the Fed by Congress: maximum employment and price stability. The FOMC meeting concludes with a decision on the stance of policy.

Related: Learn more about FOMC participants at FOMC Speak.

Next: The Fed and the Dual Mandate »