Interactive: The Chopping Block

An interactive tool from Michael Ettlinger and Michael Linden lets you try your hand at cutting $100 billion from the nonsecurity discretionary budget.

The interactive on this page uses a deprecated technology that is unable to render in modern browsers. Please refer to CAP’s more recent work on this topic.

Get out your axe! Before last fall’s elections, House Republicans promised to cut $100 billion from the budget. Furthermore, they said they would do so without touching entitlements, defense spending, or veterans’ services. This portion of the budget, known as “non-security discretionary spending,” makes up less than 15 percent of the federal budget. Though it is a relatively small slice of the overall budget, conservatives routinely ignore other kinds federal spending—like defense and tax expenditures—and instead focus their ire on this one part.

But despite their zeal for deficit reduction through draconian spending cuts, House Republicans are finding it difficult to fulfill their promise. Their most recent plan, though it certainly does include devastating cuts, both falls short of $100 billion in savings relative to current levels of spending and extends some cuts into “security” agencies like defense and veterans’ affairs.

Why are even these committed budget slashers having such a tough time finding $100 billion in savings? Because nonsecurity discretionary spending includes a lot of important, popular, and successful programs and services that even those who are committed to reducing the size of government are loathe to cut too deeply.

Maybe you’ll have more luck than they did. Using the tool below, run through the programs in the nonsecurity discretionary category and try your hand at cutting $100 billion from the nonsecurity discretionary budget. Click a percentage to choose how much to cut or even go ahead and eliminate programs altogether. Once you’re done, you can share your solution on Twitter or Facebook.

As you’re deciding which education programs to slash, how much less we should be spending on health research, and how many national parks to close, bear in mind that the same people who want to cut $100 billion from this category of spending are perfectly happy delivering $700 billion in tax cuts to the richest 2 percent of Americans over the next 10 years. Obviously, to get the same amount of deficit reduction if those tax cuts expired, a lot less than $100 billion in cuts would be needed.

The Chopping Block

$0 cut so far.



  • Health
  • National Institutes of Health

    The National Institutes of Health conducts and supports medical research.

  • Administration for Children and Families

    This agency operates Head Start, the Low Income Home Energy Program, child care grants to states, and several other programs designed to improve the well-being of children.

  • Food and Nutrition Service

    The Food and Nutrition Service operates the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children which provides nutritious foods, nutrition education, and health care referrals to low-income women and children.

  • Health Resources and Services Administration

    The is agency is charged with improving health care services and providing greater access to health care. More than 16 million Americans on HRSA-funded clinics for access to health care.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention focuses on various aspects of health and well-being, including infectious disease treatment and prevention, injury prevention.

  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

    This is the agency that runs Medicare and Medicaid, both of which are mandatory. The discretionary funding shown here goes mainly toward Medicare operating costs, and combating waste, fraud and abuse in those programs.

  • Public health and social services emergency fund

    The Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund plans for and responds to health emergencies arising from bioterrorism, pandemic disease, or other public health contingencies.

  • Indian Health Services

    The Indian Health Service is responsible for providing federal health services to American Indians and Alaska Natives.

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

    This agency reduces the impact of substance abuse and mental illness mainly through grants to states to support local services.

  • Food and drug safety and inspection

    The Food and Drug Administration and the Food Safety and Inspection Service monitor and regulate the nation's food supply, drugs, and medical devices.

  • Administration on Aging

    The Administration on Aging operates a system of home and community-based services that help elderly individuals maintain their health and independence.

  • Education and Labor
  • Elementary and Secondary Education

    More than three quarters of this funding is granted out to states and local school districts to support K-12 education.

  • Federal Student Aid

    The Office of Federal Student Aid administers the several student aid programs that are available to help students pay for attending postsecondary educational institutions.

  • Department of Labor

    The Department of Labor mainly operates a variety of job training and worker dislocation programs. It also houses the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and several employment standards and safety agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

  • Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

    Nearly all of this funding is passed on to state and local educational agencies to help pay for the costs of providing special education and related services to students with disabilities.

  • Other education

    This category includes vocational and adult education, postsecondary education, the Institute of Education Sciences, the Office of English Language Acquisition, and the office for Safe and Drug-Free Schools.

  • Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education

    These two agencies serve nearly 2 million American Indians, including the operation of 180 schools for more than 40,000 students.

  • International Affairs
  • International development and humanitarian assistance

    This category combines several major development and assistance programs including the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Global Health and Child Survival account, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Peace Corps, among others.

  • International security assistance

    This includes the Foreign Military Financing Program, which provides grants to countries for use in purchasing American made military equipment, and the Economic Support Fund, nearly half of which goes to Afghanistan.

  • Administration of Foreign Affairs

    The United States State Department operates more than 260 diplomatic posts in over 180 countries all over the globe.

  • International organizations, peacekeeping operations, conferences and commissions

    The United States contributes to several international organizations including the United Nations, the Organization of American States, and several others. About half of the funding shown here is spent on international peacekeeping operations.

  • Housing and Development
  • Public and Indian Housing Programs

    These programs provide housing support for people with low incomes who cannot consistently afford even minimal quality shelter. This funding level provides assistance to about one quarter of all families who are eligible.

  • Community Planning and Development

    This category includes a number of programs designed to improve economic opportunities for low and moderate income persons by partnering with community-level governments, non-profits, and businesses.

  • Rural housing and development

    This includes the Rural Housing and Rural Utilities Services, as well as two other agencies that seek to promote rural development.

  • Corporation for National and Community Service

    The Corporation for National and Community Service is the nation's largest grant maker supporting service and volunteering. CNCS-supported programs include Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America.

  • Science and Technology
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the federal agency dedicated to space exploration, space travel, and aeronautics research.

  • National Science Foundation

    The National Science Foundation provides funding and support in nearly every area of scientific research and exploration.

  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey

    These are scientific agencies charged with monitoring and studying our landscape, oceans and atmosphere.

  • Natural resources and environment
  • Environmental Protection Agency

    The Environmental Protection Agency enforces environmental regulations, studies emerging environmental threats, and seeks to educate the public on environmental issues.

  • Forest Service

    The Forest Service manages the 193 million acres of public lands in national forests and grasslands.

  • Corps of Engineers-Civil Works

    The Army Corps of Engineers provides public engineering services for water-related projects that deal with flood control, navigation, supply, and recreation.

  • National Parks and the Smithsonian

    There are 392 national parks, 19 Smithsonian museums, 9 research centers and the national zoo. There are more than 300 million visits to a national park or Smithsonian institution each year.

  • Fish and Wildlife Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service

    These two agencies work to protect and conserve resources like soil, water, fish, plants and other wildlife.

  • Public lands and waterways management

    This category includes the Bureau of Land Management, which maintains 243 million acres of federal lands, and the Bureau of Reclamation, which manages water systems in the western United States.

  • General Government
  • Legislative branch operations, judicial branch operations, and the Executive Office of the President

    This category includes funding for Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court, as well as all 94 federal district courts and 12 circuit courts.

  • Social Security Administration

    Social Security and the Supplemental Security Income program are both mandatory programs and both run by this agency. However, each does also receive a relatively small allocation of discretionary funding each year.

  • Bureau of the Census

    In addition to decennial census, the Bureau of the Census also conducts annual population and community surveys and maintains a vast database of demographic and economic data.

  • Justice and Law Enforcement
  • Other federal law enforcement

    This category includes the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, grants to local and state law enforcement agencies, and the U.S. parole commission.

  • Federal Prison System

    The Federal Prison System is responsible for all federal prisons and the custody and care of approximately 209,000 federal offenders.

  • U.S. Attorneys and U.S. Marshals

    The United States Attorneys serve as the nation's principal litigators. The United States Marshals are the enforcement arm of the federal courts.

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation

    The Federal Bureau of Investigation enforces federal laws and serves as an internal intelligence agency.

  • Drug Enforcement Administration

    The Drug Enforcement Administration enforces drug laws and regulations and manages the national drug intelligence program.

  • Transportation
  • Federal Aviation Administration

    The Federal Aviation Administration regulates civil aviation and operates air traffic control.

  • Federal Railroad Administration

    The Federal Railroad Administration regulates all train safety and development.

  • Federal Transit Administration

    The Federal Transit Administration supports public transportation systems throughout the United States including buses, subway, monorail, and ferry boats. Nearly all funding for the FTA is passed on to states and localities in the form of grants.

  • General transportation and infrastructure

    This category includes the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, and several other relatively small federal transportation and infrastructure-related offices.

  • Energy
  • Department of energy

    The Department of Energy operates a variety of programs dedicated to improving and enhancing the country's energy supply. It also operates its own Office of Science, which oversees and funds research in a wide variety of physical sciences.

  • Agriculture
  • Agriculture research and services

    This includes the Farm Service Agency, the Agricultural Research Service, and the National Institute of Food Agriculture.

  • Foreign Agricultural Service

    The Foreign Agriculture Service links U.S. agriculture with the rest of the world by making trade agreements between the United States and foreign countries.

  • Other
  • All else

    The above agencies and categories account for more than 97% of non-defense, non-veterans, non-homeland security discretionary spending. The remaining 3% is divided up among dozens of small bureaus like the International Trade Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Commodities Future Trading Commission, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

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Michael Linden

Managing Director, Economic Policy

Michael Ettlinger

Vice President, Economic Policy

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