Federal Budget: Detailed Numbers


Using this page, you can find details on how the federal government spends money over various time periods, including projected spending for fiscal year 2005.

The section "What Do the Numbers Mean?" explains where the numbers came from and how they are organized.

Get the Numbers

Step 1:Choose outlays or budget authority and a corresponding time period:<1>
First year:
Last year:
budget authority
First year:
Last year:
Step 2:Choose how to organize data:
Organized by function and subfunction
Organized by agency and bureau
Step 3:

What Do the Numbers Mean?

What are the numbers?

Federal spending in a given fiscal year is presented in terms of both outlays (1962--2005) and budget authority (1976--2005). Figures for fiscal years 2004 and 2005 are estimates based on the president's fiscal policy and economic assumptions. Note that the definition of the fiscal year changed between 1976 and 1977. TQ is the transition quarter, the 3-month period July 1, 1976 to September 30, 1976.

Where are the numbers from?

The data are from the Public Budget Database, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2005.

How are the numbers organized?

The outlays (or budget authority) for a given fiscal year are presented hierarchically. There are two hierarchies used:

By agency and bureau

This follows the Public Budget Database, which organizes its data in a hierarchy with three levels: agency, bureau, account. (An "agency" may not always represent an actual agency; likewise for "bureau.")

In ' presentation of the data by agency and bureau, the top level is a list of agencies. In particular, this list contains: cabinet departments; the legislative and judicial branches of government; a handful of independent agencies; other independent agencies, grouped together at this level; allowances; and undistributed offsetting receipts. The second level is that of the individual agency. The third level is a bureau within an agency. The last level is that of an account.

By function and subfunction

The Public Budget Database also organizes data by budget function and subfunction. Subfuctions are then divided following the scheme above, i.e., agency, bureau, and account.

Since agencies and their bureaus may spend money across multiple budget functions and subfunctions, the amounts shown here for agencies and bureaus only reflect spending associated with that particular budget (sub)function, not necessarily all spending for that agency or bureau. For example, in 2004 the Department of Energy shows a total of $882 million in outlays under the budget subfunction Energy conservation (272). But it also shows a total of $16.1 billion under Atomic energy defense activities (053).

Listing spending by budget function and subfunction is often a useful way to view the budget data. For example, it openly distinguishes the components of the budget of the Department of Energy devoted to military and non-military aspects. (The former is primarily related to nuclear weapons.)

A note on historical consistency

Account level data are useful in that they are the most detailed description of the budget given by statute. Account data should be considered suspect when making historical comparisons (for example, looking at budget trends), because programs are sometimes moved from one account to another and accounts are sometimes consolidated.

In contrast, subfunction classifications tend to be very stable over time. Futhermore, when a budget item is moved from one subfunction to another, the change is usually well-documented, and data series like those in the Public Budget Database are revised backwards to reflect the new definition.

Other aspects of the presentation

Zero values discarded

Rows in the database which have a value of "0" for a particular fiscal year are not reported for that year. However, note that sometimes values of positive and negative numbers for an agency or bureau will sum to 0. In that case, since the underlying values do not vanish, the sum is presented even though it does vanish.

The Public Budget Database presents data on outlays for fiscal years 1962 to 2005 and data on budget authority for fiscal years 1976 to 2005. Since the funding lifetime of some programs and agencies is limited, many entries in the outlays and budget authority tables will be zero.

Social Security Administration

The Social Security Administration is split into two agencies in the Public Budget Database (numbered 016 and 017). Since these are both named "Social Security Administration," they are combined here into one.

Automatic descent of hierarchy

Extra levels of the data hierarchy are presented when there is only one possible choice involved.

For example, if a user starts at the top level (organized by agency) and then clicks on Social Security Administration, the data is presented down to the account level, since in the budget database this agency has only one underlying bureau (also denoted "Social Security Aministration"). On the other hand, clicking on Department of Transportation displays only the agency and its underlying bureaus (the first also "Department of Transportation," then "Office of the Secretary", and so on).

A similar contrast for the presentation by budget function can be made between the budget functions 650 Social Security (whose presentation extends to the level of account) and 400 Transportation (where no more than budget subfunctions are detailed).

What do negative values mean?

In the database some values for outlays or budget authority are negative. These values reflect offsetting receipts and collections.

Minor discrepancies with other budget documents

The figures given here for national defense (function 050) or international affairs (function 150) or do not match those in the "Historical Tables" exactly (see Table 8.1, "Outlays by Budget Enforcement Act Category: 1962--2009" [xls], [pdf]). The presentation in Table 8.1 of the "Historical Tables," as noted there, lists data for discretionary spending. If the numbers presented here using the Public Budget Database were to exclude the relatively small amounts in functions 050 and 150 consisting of mandatory spending, the numbers would match exactly.

Note that the numbers presented here for undistributed offsetting receipts (function 950) do not match those in Table 8.1 for the years 1987--1990. The reason for this is currently unknown.

Recommended Reading

The presentation of the budget numbers was inspired by "Budget Explorer: The Complete US Federal Budget", at Kowal Design.


<1> For a single year, choose the second year to be the same as the first year. Otherwise, the second year must be later than the first year.


The following documents were used in the development of this presentation of the budget:

Page version

Page last updated on 2004 February 24