Spending Growth: Nondefense Discretionary

March 8, 2011

Last week I compared “other mandatory” spending in fiscal 2007 to the president’s proposal for fiscal 2012. Several readers requested that I produce a chart showing a similar breakdown for nondefense discretionary spending (or “domestic discretionary”). 

The following chart breaks down nondefense discretionary outlays according to Budget Enforcement Act categories. These categories generally consist of programs from multiple departments and agencies. For example, “Science, Space, & Technology” includes programs at the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, and NASA.

Note: The president’s fiscal 2012 budget proposes that surface transportation outlays, which make up the majority of spending in the transportation category, be budgeted as mandatory rather than discretionary.

Nondefense discretionary spending accounts for approximately 17 percent of total federal spending. It is this relatively small, but nonetheless important, portion of overall federal spending that Republicans and Democrats are currently arguing over. Democrats are balking at a Republican proposal to trim $61 billion in nondefense discretionary funding. A new Cato video puts the GOP’s proposed cuts in perspective. 

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