Center for American Progress

Interactive: What Is Non-Defense Discretionary Spending?

Interactive: What Is Non-Defense Discretionary Spending?

An Interactive Look at the Federal Budget

Interactive chart shows what non-defense discretionary spending is and how it's allotted.


There has been a lot of talk recently about non-defense discretionary spending. But what is non-defense discretionary spending? What does it do? How much of the budget really goes to this category? And would it really be so easy to cut back? Our new interactive tool can help you answer these questions.

Click on the slices of the federal budget pie to see where non-defense discretionary dollars actually go. At the finest level of detail, you can click to read brief descriptions of what these programs really do. The percentages indicate the share of total federal funding that goes to that particular slice. Take a look around and decide for yourself if slashing non-defense discretionary spending is really as painless as some say it is. You might be surprised at what you find.



The data underlying this tool comes from the Office of Management and Budget’s Public Budget Database. The dollar amounts shown refer to fiscal year 2010 budget authority.

See also:

Additional Notes

Health Care Services: $3 billion in negative budget authority stemming from the transfer of the National Programs and Protection Directorate has been omitted for ease of display. The overall total for this subfunction, however, has not been altered.

Veteran’s Health Administration: The $45.1 billion in budget authority includes a "negative budget authority" of about $3 billion that comes from various offsetting fees and co-payments.

Federal Highway Administration: FHWA also has another $43 billion in budgetary resources called "obligation limitations." This is not technically a discretionary budget authority, which is why it does not appear here, though in practice the effect is the same.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission: FERC actually has "negative budget authority" because it brings in fees that more than cover its expenses.

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Michael Linden

Managing Director, Economic Policy

Michael Ettlinger

Vice President, Economic Policy