Burwell said Friday Ryan signaled he wants to increase defense spending above budget caps, which could lead to a negotiation that is separate from the appropriations process, the Hill reported.
"I think that is the start of a conversation," Burwell said while praising the two-year budget deal Ryan reached with Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., in December.
"What happened in Ryan-Murray can happen at any time and any place," Burwell said at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor.
She also outlined ways she said President Obama's $3.9 trillion budget proposal released earlier this week could help shape appropriations bills being drafted in Congress.
House and Senate appropriators, however, said they would ignore Obama's request for $56 billion in spending above the budget caps and develop the dozen spending bills to the $1.014 trillion budget cap in place, the Hill said.
"We are not disappointed that they will go forward," Burwell said. "Everyone has agreed the appropriators can go forward with their process."
Burwell said the White House will play a supporting role, "giving space for Congress to do work."