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Can You Eliminate the Deficit with Spending Cuts Alone? - No!

My Esoteric spent 20+ years as a DoD Cost and Economic Analyst as well as a program manager of the Air Force Total Cost of Ownership MIS.

The Right-Wing Promise

THE PREVIOUS INCARNATION OF THIS HUB STARTED OUT - The 2012 deficit is expected to be around $900 billion (it ended up being $1,087 billion), if the tax cuts for the top 5% of income earners expire. This doesn't seem likely now but let's assume for the moment that they do; it makes reducing the deficit a little easier.

The Right-wing took control of the House of Representatives in November 2010 (and the Senate in 2014), partly on the promise of making sure the rich keep their tax cuts and that the deficit will be eliminated through spending and tax cuts. This hub is considering the spending cut side of their plan.

Today, this hub would start with "The 2017 deficit is expected to be around $503 billion, now that the middle class tax cuts were made permanent and the top rates were increased to 39.5% and the impact of the Affordable Care Act are starting to accrue.

But first, a quick word on how tax cuts can help "reduce" a deficit.

  • Common sense says that if you cut taxes, federal tax receipts will go down.
  • The Republican theory is that tax cuts will automatically spur growth therefore increasing federal tax receipts.
  • The problem with the Republican theory is sometimes they are correct, sometimes they are not.
  • If you review my hub regarding Tax Cuts (see link) you will find the Republicans are only correct if the tax cuts are preceded by economic growth!
  • In all cases since 1954, when there was a tax cut subsequent to a weak economy, federal receipts actually went down for around the next five years.
  • Today, in 2010, we have a weak economy.
  • Today, in 2016, we have a more robust, but not strong economy ... for all sorts of reasons
  • So right off the bat, the Republican plan (which, in 2016, is still to cut taxes and cut spending to balance the budget) will probably fail because chances are very high, that any tax cut will not increase revenues but instead it will decrease them as the Democrats claim and potentially push the economy back into recession.

OK, now to spending cuts. Every year around the end of January, the President submits a budget for the upcoming fiscal year (starting October 1) It contains projections of Income and Outlays. With a few minor exceptions Outlays are broken down into two groups: Discretionary and Mandatory. Discretionary has two major categories: Security-related and non-Security related. Once the President submits the budget to Congress, Congress spends the next eight months arguing about it. In a perfect world, they would pass the budget for the President's signature near the end of September to be effective Oct 1. In my memory, I think that has happened twice and I am old. (Sometimes it can be very long indeed. I think the fiscal year was 2003, which began October 2002, I was running a program in the Air Force and it wasn't until the middle January 2003 before Congress passed an Omnibus Appropriations bill to fund the Defense Department. It was touch and go in keeping my program solvent and the contractors on-board.)

The only part of the budget that is available for spending cuts, in the short term, is the Discretionary portion. The Mandatory budget is untouchable for any given year or set of years. It takes major, and politically treacherous, policy changes to impact things like Medicare and Social Security. As you will shortly find out, there is very little room for maneuver when you are limited to just the Discretionary budget.

The Budget Baseline

TABLE 1 PRESENTS THE 2016 FEDERAL BUDGET BROKEN DOWN BY MAJOR FUNCTION. Comparisons are made with similar budgets from certain points in history:

  • 2008 is the last budget that totally belongs to President Bush but reflects the fact that the economy was on the brink of a probable depression. The budget was prepared in 2007 and presented to Congress in 2008. The full devastation of the economic free-fall wasn't actually known until late Jan 2009
  • 2010 is the first Obama budget that was not based on planning by the Bush administration. (The 2009 budget is actually a combination of Bush's original planning and on-the-fly changes by Obama to cope with the crisis.)
  • 2015 represents actuals
  • 2016 is what was approved for this fiscal year, of which we are in the process of executing

Last vote was when hub was complete through Dept of Environmental Protection Agency. The hub is now complete through the last Agency.

AGENCY 2016 Est (2015 $ B)2015 (2015 $ B)2010 ($ 2015 B) [Obama's 1st Full Budget]2008 (2015 $ B) [Bush's Last Full Budget]







$ 576.3

$ 562.5

$ 726.7

$ 654.1


$ 63.7

$ 63.0

$ 58.9



$ 51.8

$ 42.6

$ 48.5

$ 44.7



$ 159.2

$ 118.0

$ 93.2


$ 47.0

$ 47.4

$ 47.8

$ 31.7







$ 153.8

$ 139.1

$ 141.1

$ 100.0


$ 10.5

$ 9.0

$ 14.4

$ 8.5


$ 79.1

$ 90.0

$ 102.2

$ 72.6


$ 27.4

$ 25.4

$ 33.5

$ 23.5


$ 1,110.4

$ 1,027.5

$ 930.9

$ 770.5


$ 28.7

$ 35.5

$ 65.6

$ 54.0



$ 12.3

$ 14.4

$ 10.8


$ 39.1

$ 26.9

$ 32.2

$ 29.2


$ 43.5

$ 45.2

$ 188.6

$ 64.7


$ 77.8

$ 75.4

$ 84.7

$ 71.4


$ 540.4

$ 485.6

$ 484.4

$ 603.7


$ 6.7

$ 6.7

$ 10.8

$ 5.6


$ 8.3

$ 7.0

$ 12.0

$ 8.7


- $ 0.7

- $ 0.9

$ 0.9

$ 0.4


$ 19.2

$ 18.3

$ 20.6

$ 19.6


$ 6.9

$ 6.8

$ 7.3

$ 6.4


- $ 0.4

- $ 0.7

$ 6.7

$ 0.6


$ 991.6

$ 944.1

$ 822.0

$ 723.6




$ 106.0

$ 73.1

$ 125.4


- $ 252.7

- $ 257.6

- $ 292.0

- $ 305.6







$ 1,222.9

$ 1,168.6

$ 1,348.9

$ 1,248.4


$ 2,486.5

$ 2,296.6

$ 2,085.9

$ 1,754.4


$ 240.0

$ 223.2

$ 203.7

$ 278.1


- $ 504.5

- $ 1,281.2

- $ 438.5

- $ 613.9

You Simply Can't Get There From Here

4/16/2012 UPDATE: To put a slightly different twist on the argument the Conservatives, even at this late date, continue to insist you can solve the debt and debit crisis simply by cutting back government spending. As I say many other ways in many other forums, that is just impossible and the table below shows why.

In this table, I took the projected 2013 deficit (notice that it is less than a trillion dollars) and then started eliminating or reducing departments to reduce that deficit to zero; I used the Department/Agency budgets from above so I am comparing somewhat different brands of apples, but they are still apples, nevertheless. The first three cuts are the Departments Conservatives love to hate, Energy, Commerce, and Education; gone, finito, their budgets are wiped out. The fourth item is the biggie, Welfare.

This item is the difference between what is spent on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid above and beyond what is received in taxes; what Conservatives consider government handouts. Those are gone as well, knocked down to zero, the rug pulled out from under all the down-and-out in America these monies use to provide moral-killing, initiative-destroying assistance. After that, I started eliminating Departments which I thought Conservatives would like to see turned over to the states or not bothered with at all.

As you can see, all of the Defense related expenditures are still there and a few military related, non-security agencies such as the Veterans Administration or law enforcement like the Department of Justice. Beyond that, you have exactly what the Conservatives would like to see, a much smaller government.



Billion $

$704 Billion











































TREASURY ($13 OF $14B)



Dept of Defense - $ 549 B

Mission Statement

The Department of Defense is responsible for providing the military forces needed to deter war and protect the security of our country.

The major elements of these forces are the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force, consisting of about 1.7 million men and women on active duty. Of these, some 518,000 -- including about 67,000 on ships at sea -- are serving outside the United States. They are backed, in case of emergency, by the 1,000,000 members of the reserve components. In addition, there are about 1.1 million civilian employees in the Defense Department.

Under the President, who is also Commander in Chief, the Secretary of Defense exercises authority, direction, and control over the Department, which includes the separately organized military departments of Army, Navy, and Air Force, the Joint Chiefs of Staff providing military advice, the unified and specified combatant commands, and various defense agencies established for specific purposes.

National Nuclear Security Administration - $ 11 B


The NNSA is responsible for the management and security of the nation’s nuclear weapons, nuclear nonproliferation, and naval reactor programs.


The NNSA is responsible for managing national nuclear security and currently supports eight major programs and areas of responsibility.  NNSA's program support is divided into several key program areas including Defense, Nuclear Nonproliferation, Naval Reactors, Emergency Operations, Infrastructure and Environment, Nuclear Security, Management and Administration and the Office of the Administrator.

Homeland Security - $ 44 B


This Department of Homeland Security’s overriding and urgent mission is to lead the unified national effort to secure the country and preserve our freedoms. While the Department was created to secure our country against those who seek to disrupt the American way of life, our charter also includes preparation for and response to all hazards and disasters. The citizens of the United States must have the utmost confidence that the Department can execute both of these missions.

Department of Vetaran Affairs - $ 57 B


About VA

Mission Statement

To fulfill President Lincoln's promise “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan” by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s veterans.


To provide veterans the world-class benefits and services they have earned - and to do so by adhering to the highest standards of compassion, commitment, excellence, professionalism, integrity, accountability, and stewardship.

Dept of State - $ 59 B

 Department Mission Statement
Advance freedom for the benefit of the American people and the international community by helping to build and sustain a more democratic, secure, and prosperous world composed of well-governed states that respond to the needs of their people, reduce widespread poverty, and act responsibly within the international system.
          --From the FY 2009 Agency Financial Report,
         released December 2009

Note:  The Department of State, in conjunction with the Department of Defense, operate the Foreign assistance programs.

Dept of Agriculture - $ 24 B


Mission Statement

We provide leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition, and related issues based on sound public policy, the best available science, and efficient management.

Vision Statement

To expand economic opportunity through innovation, helping rural America to thrive; to promote agriculture production sustainability that better nourishes Americans while also helping feed others throughout the world; and to preserve and conserve our Nation’s natural resources through restored forests, improved watersheds, and healthy private working lands.

Dept of Commerce - $ 9 B

 About the Department of Commerce.

The U.S. Department of Commerce has a broad mandate to advance economic growth and jobs and opportunities for the American people. It has cross cutting  responsibilities in the areas of trade, technology, entrepreneurship, economic development, environmental stewardship and statistical research and analysis.

The products and services the department provides touch the lives of Americans and American companies in many ways, including weather forecasts, the decennial census, and patent and trademark protection for inventors and businesses.

The development of commerce to provide new opportunities was the central goal at the department's beginning in 1903 and it remains a primary obligation today.

The Secretary of Commerce oversees approximately 38,000 employees.

Dept of Education $ 1 B

Mission Statement:

More Resources High Priority Performance Goals

Congress established the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on May 4, 1980, in the Department of Education Organization Act (Public Law 96-88 of October 1979). Under this law, ED's mission is to:

  • Strengthen the Federal commitment to assuring access to equal educational opportunity for every individual;
  • Supplement and complement the efforts of states, the local school systems and other instrumentalities of the states, the private sector, public and private nonprofit educational research institutions, community-based organizations, parents, and students to improve the quality of education;
  • Encourage the increased involvement of the public, parents, and students in Federal education programs;
  • Promote improvements in the quality and usefulness of education through Federally supported research, evaluation, and sharing of information;
  • Improve the coordination of Federal education programs;
  • Improve the management of Federal education activities; and
  • Increase the accountability of Federal education programs to the President, the Congress, and the public.

Dept of Energy - $ 17 B


About DOE

The Department of Energy's overarching mission is to advance the national, economic, and energy security of the United States; to promote scientific and technological innovation in support of that mission; and to ensure the environmental cleanup of the national nuclear weapons complex. The Department's strategic goals to achieve the mission are designed to deliver results along five strategic themes:

Energy Security:  Promoting America's energy security through reliable, clean, and affordable energy


Nuclear Security:  Ensuring America's nuclear security

    Scientific Discovery and Innovation:  Strengthening U.S. scientific discovery, economic competitiveness, and improving quality of life through innovations in science and technology   

Environmental Responsibility:  Protecting the environment by providing a responsible resolution to the environmental legacy of nuclear weapons production

    Management Excellence:  Enabling the mission through sound management

Dept of Health & Human Services - $ 84 B


Mission Statement

The Department of Health and Human Services is the United States government's principal agency for protecting health and providing essential human services to Americans.

Administering some 250 separate programs, the department has the largest budget among all the federal departments--in fact, a budget that is exceeded only by that of the United States itself and Germany. The HHS budget accounts for almost 40 percent of all United States federal government spending.

The largest single federal programs, Social Security and Medicare, are part of this department. HHS' National Institutes of Health comprise the world's largest medical research center. And the Food and Drug Administration regulates products that account for some 25 cents for every dollar spend by American consumers. The department's employees work in every U.S. state and in many other countries of the world.

The work of the Department is carried out principally by four operating divisions:

-- Public Health Services

-- Social Security Administration

-- Health Care Financing Administration

-- Administration for Children and Families

With Emphasis on those least able to help themselves, the department provides services that protect and advance the quality of life for all Americans. HHS provides direct services or income support to more than one in every five Americans.

Dept of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) - $ 42 B


Mission Statement

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is the principal Federal agency responsible for programs concerned with the Nation's housing needs, fair housing opportunities, and improvement and development of the Nation's communities.

In carrying out its responsibilities, the Department administers a wide variety of programs, including: Federal Housing Administration mortgage insurance programs that help families become homeowners and facilitate the construction and rehabilitation of rental units; rental assistance programs for lower- income families who otherwise could not afford decent housing; the Government National Mortgage Association mortgage-backed securities program that helps ensure an adequate supply of mortgage credit; programs to combat housing discrimination and affirmatively further fair housing; programs that aid community and neighborhood development and preservation; and programs to help protect the homebuyer in the marketplace. The Department also takes steps to encourage a strong private sector housing industry that can produce affordable housing; and to stimulate private sector initiatives, public/private sector partnerships, and public entrepreneurship.

Dept of Interior - $ 12 B

 Mission. The mission of the Department of the Interior is to protect and provide access to our Nation's natural and cultural heritage and honor our trust responsibilities to Indian tribes and our commitments to island communities.

1.4 Goals. In accomplishing its mission, the Department is committed to the following goals:

A. Goal 1 - Protect the environment and preserve our nation's natural and cultural resources.

B. Goal 2 - Provide recreation for America.

C. Goal 3 - Manage natural resources for a healthy environment and a strong economy.

D. Goal 4 - Provide science for a changing world.

E. Goal 5 - Meet our trust responsibilities to Indian Tribes and our commitments to island communities.

Dept of Justice - $ 24 B

Mission statement

The following is the operating mission statement of the DOJ:

To enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law; to ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic; to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.

Dept of Labor - $ 14 B

Our Mission

To foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.

Dept of Transportation - $ 78 B

Mission & History

Mission: The Department of Transportation was established by an act of Congress on October 15, 1966, the Department’s first official day of operation was April 1, 1967. The mission of the Department is to:

Serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future.

Federal Aviation Administration

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversees the safety of civil aviation. The safety mission of the FAA is first and foremost and includes the issuance and enforcement of regulations and standards related to the manufacture, operation, certification and maintenance of aircraft. The agency is responsible for the rating and certification of airmen and for certification of airports serving air carriers. It also regulates a program to protect the security of civil aviation, and enforces regulations under the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act for shipments by air. The FAA, which operates a network of airport towers, air route traffic control centers, and flight service stations, develops air traffic rules, allocates the use of airspace, and provides for the security control of air traffic to meet national defense requirements. Other responsibilities include the construction or installation of visual and electronic aids to air navigation and promotion of aviation safety internationally. The FAA, which regulates and encourages the U.S. commercial space transportation industry, also licenses commercial space launch facilities and private sector launches.

Federal Highway Administration

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) coordinates highway transportation programs in cooperation with states and other partners to enhance the country's safety, economic vitality, quality of life, and the environment. Major program areas include the Federal-Aid Highway Program, which provides federal financial assistance to the States to construct and improve the National Highway System, urban and rural roads, and bridges. This program provides funds for general improvements and development of safe highways and roads. The Federal Lands Highway Program provides access to and within national forests, national parks, Indian reservations and other public lands by preparing plans and contracts, supervising construction facilities, and conducting bridge inspections and surveys. The FHWA also manages a comprehensive research, development, and technology program.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was established within the Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000, pursuant to the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 [Public Law No. 106-159, 113 Stat. 1748 (December 9, 1999)]. Formerly a part of the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries. Administration activities contribute to ensuring safety in motor carrier operations through strong enforcement of safety regulations, targeting high-risk carriers and commercial motor vehicle drivers; improving safety information systems and commercial motor vehicle technologies; strengthening commercial motor vehicle equipment and operating standards; and increasing safety awareness. To accomplish these activities, the Administration works with Federal, state, and local enforcement agencies, the motor carrier industry, labor safety interest groups, and others.

Federal Railroad Administration

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) promotes safe and environmentally sound rail transportation. With the responsibility of ensuring railroad safety throughout the nation, the FRA employs safety inspectors to monitor railroad compliance with federally mandated safety standards including track maintenance, inspection standards and operating practices. The FRA conducts research and development tests to evaluate projects in support of its safety mission and to enhance the railroad system as a national transportation resource. Public education campaigns on highway-rail grade crossing safety and the danger of trespassing on rail property are also administered by FRA.

Federal Transit Administration

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) assists in developing improved mass transportation systems for cities and communities nationwide. Through its grant programs, FTA helps plan, build, and operate transit systems with convenience, cost and accessibility in mind. While buses and rail vehicles are the most common type of public transportation, other kinds include commuter ferryboats, trolleys, inclined railways, subways, and people movers. In providing financial, technical and planning assistance, the agency provides leadership and resources for safe and technologically advanced local transit systems while assisting in the development of local and regional traffic reduction. The FTA maintains the National Transit library (NTL), a repository of reports, documents, and data generated by professionals and others from around the country. The NTL is designed to facilitate document sharing among people interested in transit and transit related topics.

Maritime Administration

The Maritime Administration (MARAD) promotes development and maintenance of an adequate, well-balanced, United States merchant marine, sufficient to carry the Nation's domestic waterborne commerce and a substantial portion of its waterborne foreign commerce, and capable of serving as a naval and military auxiliary in time of war or national emergency. MARAD also seeks to ensure that the United States enjoys adequate shipbuilding and repair service, efficient ports, effective intermodal water and land transportation systems, and reserve shipping capacity in time of national emergency.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is responsible for reducing deaths, injuries and economic losses resulting from motor vehicle crashes. NHTSA sets and enforces safety performance standards for motor vehicles and equipment, and through grants to state and local governments enables them to conduct effective local highway safety programs. NHTSA investigates safety defects in motor vehicles, sets and enforces fuel economy standards, helps states and local communities reduce the threat of drunk drivers, promotes the use of safety belts, child safety seats and air bags, investigates odometer fraud, establishes and enforces vehicle anti-theft regulations and provides consumer information on motor vehicle safety topics. Research on driver behavior and traffic safety is conducted by NHTSA to develop the most efficient and effective means of bringing about safety improvements. A toll-free Auto Safety Hotline, 1-888-DASH-2-DOT, furnishes consumers with a wide range of auto safety information. Callers also can help identify safety problems in motor vehicles, tires and automotive equipment such as child safety seats.

Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) oversees the safety of more than 800,000 daily shipments of hazardous materials in the United States and 64 percent of the nation's energy that is transported by pipelines. PHMSA is dedicated solely to safety by working toward the
elimination of transportation-related deaths and injuries in hazardous materials and pipeline transportation, and by promoting transportation solutions that enhance communities and protect the natural environment.

Research and Innovative Technology Administration

The Research & Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) is an agency whose mission is to identify and facilitate solutions to the challenges and opportunities facing America's transportation system. RITA's focus is to promote transportation research that will foster the use of innovative technology. RITA includes the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, an organization dedicated to enhancing the effectiveness, efficiency, and responsiveness of other Federal organizations with critical transportation-related functions and missions. With responsibility for research policy and technology sharing, the agency partners with national and international organizations and universities. RITA also includes the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the Transportation Safety Institute and the University Transportation Centers program.

Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation

The Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) operates and maintains a safe, reliable and efficient waterway for commercial and noncommercial vessels between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean. The SLSDC, in tandem with the Saint Lawrence Seaway Authority of Canada, oversees operations safety, vessel inspections, traffic control, and navigation aids on the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Important to the economic development of the Great Lakes region, SLSDC works to develop trade opportunities to benefit port communities, shippers and receivers and related industries in the area.

Surface Transportation Board

The Surface Transportation Board (STB) is an independent, bipartisan, adjudicatory body organizationally housed within the DOT. It is responsible for the economic regulation of interstate surface transportation, primarily railroads, within the United States. The STB's mission is to ensure that competitive, efficient, and safe transportation services are provided to meet the needs of shippers, receivers, and consumers. The Board is charged with promoting, where appropriate, substantive and procedural regulatory reform in the economic regulation of surface transportation, and with providing an efficient and effective forum for the resolution of disputes. The Board continues to strive to develop, through rulemakings and case disposition, new and better ways to analyze unique and complex problems, to reach fully justified decisions more quickly, to reduce the costs associated with regulatory oversight, and to encourage private-sector negotiations and resolutions to problems where appropriate.

Dept of Treasury - $ 14 B


Maintain a strong economy and create economic and job opportunities by promoting the conditions that enable economic growth and stability at home and abroad, strengthen national security by combating threats and protecting the integrity of the financial system, and manage the U.S. Government’s finances and resources effectively.

The Department of the Treasury's mission highlights its role as the steward of U.S. economic and financial systems, and as an influential participant in the global economy.

The Treasury Department is the executive agency responsible for promoting economic prosperity and ensuring the financial security of the United States. The Department is responsible for a wide range of activities such as advising the President on economic and financial issues, encouraging sustainable economic growth, and fostering improved governance in financial institutions. The Department of the Treasury operates and maintains systems that are critical to the nation's financial infrastructure, such as the production of coin and currency, the disbursement of payments to the American public, revenue collection, and the borrowing of funds necessary to run the federal government. The Department works with other federal agencies, foreign governments, and international financial institutions to encourage global economic growth, raise standards of living, and to the extent possible, predict and prevent economic and financial crises. The Treasury Department also performs a critical and far-reaching role in enhancing national security by implementing economic sanctions against foreign threats to the U.S., identifying and targeting the financial support networks of national security threats, and improving the safeguards of our financial systems.

Corps of Engineers - $ 5 B

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Mission
Provide vital public engineering services in peace and war to strengthen our Nation's security, energize the economy, and reduce risks from disasters. 

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Vision
A GREAT engineering force of highly disciplined people working with our partners through disciplined thought and action to deliver innovative and sustainable solutions to the Nation's engineering challenges.

Environmental Protection Agency - $ 10 B

Our Mission and What We Do

The mission of EPA is to protect human health and the environment.

EPA's purpose is to ensure that:

  • all Americans are protected from significant risks to human health and the environment where they live, learn and work;
  • national efforts to reduce environmental risk are based on the best available scientific information;
  • federal laws protecting human health and the environment are enforced fairly and effectively;
  • environmental protection is an integral consideration in U.S. policies concerning natural resources, human health, economic growth, energy, transportation, agriculture, industry, and international trade, and these factors are similarly considered in establishing environmental policy;
  • all parts of society -- communities, individuals, businesses, and state, local and tribal governments -- have access to accurate information sufficient to effectively participate in managing human health and environmental risks;
  • environmental protection contributes to making our communities and ecosystems diverse, sustainable and economically productive; and
  • the United States plays a leadership role in working with other nations to protect the global environment.

To accomplish this mission, we:

Develop and Enforce Regulations

When Congress writes an environmental law, we implement it by writing regulations. Often, we set national standards that states and tribes enforce through their own regulations. If they fail to meet the national standards, we can help them. We also enforce our regulations, and help companies understand the requirements.

Give Grants

Nearly half of our budget goes into grants to state environmental programs, non-profits, educational institutions, and others. They use the money for a wide variety of projects, from scientific studies that help us make decisions to community cleanups. Overall, grants help us achieve our overall mission: protect human health and the environment.

Study Environmental Issues

At laboratories located throughout the nation, we identify and try to solve environmental problems. To learn even more, we share information with other countries, private sector organizations, academic institutions, and other agencies.

We don't protect the environment on our own, we work with businesses, non-profit organizations, and state and local governments through dozens of partnerships. A few examples include conserving water and energy, minimizing greenhouse gases, re-using solid waste, and getting a handle on pesticide risks. In return, we share information and publicly recognize our partners.

Teach People About the Environment

Protecting the environment is everyone's responsibility, and starts with understanding the issues. The basics include reducing how much energy and materials you use, reusing what you can and recycling the rest. There's a lot more about that to learn!

Publish Information

Through written materials and this Web site, EPA informs the public about our activities.

What We Don't Do

Sometimes problems seem like something we would handle, but may actually be the responsibility of other federal, tribal, state or local agencies. It may be most appropriate for you to contact your city, county, or state environmental or health agency rather than EPA.

For example:

  • Endangered Species Act is primarily managed by the US Fish and Wildlife.
  • Nuclear Waste - The Department of Energy's Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management addresses the problem of nuclear waste.

General Services Administration (GSA) - $ 1 B

Mission Statement


The General Sercices Administration (GSA) is a central management agency that sets Federal policy in such areas as federal procurement, real property management, and information resources management. GSA also oversees diversified governmentwide operations involving buildings management, telecommunications, consumer information distribution, child care in the Federal workplace, and the Federal Recycling Program. GSA employs about 19,600 people nationwide.

Travel Management

Over 920,000 Federal employees hold Federal travel charge cards. GSA's 1994 Federal Travel Directory lists discount air and rail fares for over 3,700 domestic and international city-pair markets and thousands of hotels and motels in over 2,000 cities worldwide. Travel arrangements are handled by 113 commercial travel agencies under contract with GSA.

Commercial Credit Card Program

GSA's contract for the use of commercial credit cards provides financial and cash management control, reduces the administrative costs of small purchases, and enhances the ability to track spending, forecast requirements, consolidate purchases, and pay vendors promptly for small purchases. Over 765 Federal organizations participate using 72,800 cards to purchase over $1 billion in goods and services for the Federal Government.

Transportation Audits

GSA audits freight and passenger transportation invoices and recovers excess charges paid by Federal agencies when invoices are not bases on the lowest applicable rates. In fiscal year 1993, GSA collected $19 million in commercial transportation overcharges.

Fleet Management

GSA's Interagency Fleet Management System provides 145,000 vechicles and all related services to many Federal agencies. The network of 69 Fleet Management Centers generates annual sales of over $535 million. Maintenance Control Centers in Regional Offices manage over $73 million in repairs and services provided by the private sector.

Aircraft Management

GSA develops regulations, policies, and procedures for aircraft management and safety for 16 federal departments and independent agencies operating 1,485 aircraft at an annual cost of about $993.2 million.

Business Service Center

Through the third quarter of fiscal year 1994, GSA Business Service Centers have provided guidance and assistance to more than 113,642 businesses interested in doing business with GSA and other Federal agencies and have issued 10,648 solicitations and received 34,719 bids for contracts.


In addition to managing about 115 funds, GSA provides cross-servicing support for 53 client agencies. Through the third quarter of fiscal year 1994, GSA processed $6.7 billion in billings for supplies and services, made more than 1,329,000 payments totaling $4.8 billion, and saved $2.3 million by earning 97 percent of available early payment discounts.

Public Buildings

GSA provides space for over on million workstations for Federal employees in 1,773 government-owned and 6,401 leased buildings. GSA spends about $4.4 billion a year for real estate management activities including acquistion of sites and buildings, construction, leasing, repairs, alterations, maintenance, and protection.


Through the end of the third quarter of fiscal year 1994, Federal agencies purchased supplies and services worth approximately $2.0 billion through GSA`s Federal Supply Schedules. Addionally, orders worth $676 million were placed for items with a competitive or continuing demand through the Stock Program, and orders worth $947 million for products through the direct delivery Special Order Program.


GSA provides local and long-distance telecommunications services to over 1.7 million Federal users. Using advanced digital capabilities to connect telephones, computers, fax machines, and video conference facilities, GSA supports communications in day-to-day operations and emergency situations.

Investments in the Environment

GSA helps the Federal Government save energy, recycle used materials, and purchases products with environmental benefits.

Federal Recycling Program: GSA's Recycling Program enables Federal agencies to recycle used office materials, glass, aluminum cans, polystyrene, and newspaper. During fiscal year 1994, more than 500,000 Federal employees recycled around 38,000 tons of material. Nearly $370,000 in revenue was generated from the sale of recycled material; about $2 million was saved in dumping fees; and more thatn $4 million was saved in transportation costs to and from landfills.

Procurement: GSA provides about 3,000 environmentally oriented products for Federal use. These include more than 900 recycled products. Overall sales for environmental items exceeded $300 million for fiscal year 1993. The recycled products include copier paper, retread tires, recharged toner cartridges for laser printers, and building insulation. GSA also establishes contracts for energy efficient appliances and computers and offers a variety of paints, coatings, adhesives, and cleaning products that have been reformulated to be less environmentally detrimental.

Energy: From 1985 to 1993, GSA reduced energy use in Federal buildings by 9.7 percent, nearly fulfilling the goal of reducing energy consumption 10 percent by 1995. GSA invests a significant amount of repair and alterations funding in energy conservation technologies each yar to reduce energy costs and to modernize buldings for improved comfort and productivity.

Water: GSA's Water Management Strategy is a nationwide monitoring and conservation effort that includes the evaluation and installation of water conserving systems and fixtures in its buildings. A GSA water conservation guidebook is now available for all managers of Federal facilities.

Vehicles: To conserve energy, protect the environment, and stimulate the manufacture of vehicles using alternative fuels (methanol, ethanol, and compressed natural gas), GSA has become a leader in the alternative fuel industry. With the acquisition of 4,000 alternative fuel vehicles in 1994, GSA now has a fleet of 10,000 such employees.

Employee Friendly Programs: GSA operates telecommuting centers to let Federal employees work closer to their homes, helping employees work closer to their homes, helping employees save gasoline and reduces traffic congestion, fuel consumption, and pollution. Since 1980, the Federal Ridesharing Program has promoted the use of carpools, vanpools, and public transportation as a way to conserve gasoline, improve air quality, reduce traffic congestion, and reduce commuter expense. Nearly 65 percent of all GSA employees nationwide rideshare or use public transportation to commute to work.

Health and Safety

GSA promotes a fafe and healthful environment for its clients and employees by climinating hazards in Federal facilities under its control. For example, over 50 percent of all GSA-controlled space is now protected with automatic sprinklers. GSA improved safety in Federal buildings by testing for and controlling radon. For safety in fleet vehicles, since 1991, GSA has been purchasing passenger sedans equipped with airbags; other Federal agencies can order the vehicles from GSA contracts.

Child Care

GSA helps Federal clients establish work-site child care centers. Currently 96 centers operate in GSA managed space with a total licensed capacity for over 7,000 children. Plans are underway to establish over 30 new centers in the next three years.

Helping the Homeless

Under the provisions of the 1987 McKinney Homeless Assistance Act, GSA has assigned a total of 54 real estate properties valued at $88.5 million for use by the homeless and donated personal property worth more than $51.1 to public agencies and qualifying non-profit organizations serving the homeless.

Real Property Disposals

GSA sell unneeded Federal real estate, transfers it to other Federal agencies, or donates it to State and local governments and non-profits insitutions for public benefit. Through the third quarter of fiscal year 1994, GSA disposed of 140 parcels of land resulting in sales of $33.5 million, Federal transfers worth $3.8 million, and donations worth $45.6 million.

Personal Property Management

GSA transferred personal property worth $1.64 billion to Federal and State agencies in the third quarter of fiscal year 1994.

Technical Assistance

GSA supports over 125 Federal organizations in improving the efficiency, effectiveness, and economy of their information processng resources. Contracts with over 75 vendors provide Federal agencies with technical expertise in computer security system planning, business and scientific programming, systems acquisition, and systems integration.

Technology for Disabled Persons

GSA provides leadership in assuring that members of the public and Federal employees with disabilities maintain access to informations systems. The Federal Information Relay Services is a governmentwide telephone service that supports communications when one party has a speech and/or hearing impairment. The Clearinghouse on Computer Accommodation (COCA) assists Federal agencies in making computer and telecommunications accessible to people with disabilities.

Technology Acquisition

GSA's Federal clients buy between $1.5 and $2 billion each year in computers and telecommunicaions hardware, software and services from over 1,000 companies with Multiple Award Schedules. To help agencies acquire technology, GSA trains senior managers in the purchase of Multiple Award Schedules. To help agencies acquire technology, GSA trains senior managers in the purchase of major informations systems. The Federal Computer Acquisition Center assists agencies in the purchase of major information systems.

Nasa - $ 19 B


NASA's mission is to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.

To do that, thousands of people have been working around the world -- and off of it -- for 50 years, trying to answer some basic questions. What's out there in space? How do we get there? What will we find? What can we learn there, or learn just by trying to get there, that will make life better here on Earth?

NASA conducts its work in four principal organizations, called mission directorates:

  • Aeronautics: pioneers and proves new flight technologies that improve our ability to explore and which have practical applications on Earth.
  • Exploration Systems: creates capabilities for sustainable human and robotic exploration.
  • Science: explores the Earth, solar system and universe beyond; charts the best route of discovery; and reaps the benefits of Earth and space exploration for society.
  • Space Operations: provides critical enabling technologies for much of the rest of NASA through the space shuttle, the International Space Station and flight support.

The Future

NASA is making significant and sustained investments in:

  • Transformative technology development and demonstrations to pursue new approaches to space exploration, including heavy-lift technologies;
  • Robotic precursor missions to multiple destinations in the solar system;
  • U.S. commercial spaceflight capabilities;
  • Extensions and increased utilization of the International Space Station;
  • Cross-cutting technology development in a new Space Technology Program;
  • Climate change research and observations;
  • NextGen and green aviation; and
  • Education, including focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).


National Science Foundation - $ 7 B

Mission Statement

NSF is an independent federal agency created by the National Science Foundation Act of 1950 (P.L. 81-507). Its aim is to promote and advance scientific progress in the United States. The idea of such a foundation was an outgrowth of the important contributions made by science and technology during World War II. From those first days, NSF has had a unique place in the federal government: It is responsible for the overall health of science and engineering across all disciplines. In contrast, other federal agencies support research focused on specific missions, such as health or defense. The Foundation is also committed to ensuring the nation's supply of scientists, engineers, and science educators.

NSF funds research and education is science and engineering. It does this through grants and contracts to more than 2,000 colleges, universities, and other research institutions in all parts of the United States. The Foundation accounts for about 25 percent of federal support to academic institutions for basic research.

NSF receives approximately 30,000 new proposals each year and processes a total of 60,000 proposal actions for research, graduate and postdoctoral fellowships, and math/science/engineering education projects; it makes approximately 20,000 awards. These typically go to universities, colleges, academic consortia, nonprofit institutions, and small businesses. The agency operates no laboratories itself but does support National Research Centers, certain oceanographic vessels, and Antarctic research stations. The Foundation also supports cooperative research between universities and industry and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

The Foundation is led by a presidentially appointed director and a National Science Board composed of 24 outstanding scientists, engineers, and educations from universities, colleges, industries, and other organizations involved in research and education.

NSF is structured much like a university, with grants-making divisions for the various disciplines and fields of science and engineering and science education. NSF also uses a formal management process to coordinate research in strategic areas that cross traditional disciplinary boundaries. The Foundation is helped by advisors from the scientific and engineering community and from industry who serve on formal committees or as ad hoc reviewers of proposals. This advisory system, which focuses on both program direction and specific proposals, involves more than 59,000 scientists and engineers a year. NSF staff members who are experts in a certain field or area make award recommendations; applicants get anonymous verbatim copies of peer reviews.

Awardees are wholly responsible for doing their research and preparing the results for publication; the Foundation does not assume responsibility for such findings or their interpretation.

NSF welcomes proposals on behalf of all qualified scientists and engineers and strongly encourages women, minorities, and people with disabilities to compete fully in its programs. In accordance with federal statutes and regulations and NSF policies, no person on grounds of race, color, age, sex national origin, or disability shall be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any program or activity receiving financial assistance from NSF.

Small Business Administration - $ 1 B


Mission Statement

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was created in 1953 as an independent agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our Nation. Small business is critical to our economic recovery, to building America's future, and to helping the United States compete in today's global marketplace.

Our vision for the SBA revolves around two principles: customer-driven outreach and quality-focused management. We are determined to reach out to small businesses in an unprecedented way to listen to their needs, to report these needs back to President Clinton, and to suggest appropriate initiatives to help small businesses. We also recognize the need to change our management culture, our organizational structure, and the way we do business to improve the quality of our work. Through these changes, we will create a more entrepreneurial, customer-driven, and efficient SBA.

Social Security Administration - $ 10 B


Mission Statement

The mission of the Social Security Administration (SSA) is to administer national Social Security programs as prescribed by legislation in an equitable, effective, efficient, and caring manner.

Corporation of National & Community Service - $ 1 B


Our Mission and Guiding Principles

The mission of the Corporation for National and Community Service is to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering.

Our Guiding Principles

As we pursue our goals, we are guided by the following principles:

  • Put the needs of local communities first.
  • Strengthen the public-private partnerships that underpin all of our programs.
  • Use our programs to build stronger, more efficient, and more sustainable community networks capable of mobilizing volunteers to address local needs, including disaster preparedness and response.
  • Measure and continually improve our programs' benefits to service beneficiaries, participants, community organizations, and our national culture of service.
  • Build collaborations wherever possible across our programs and with other Federal programs.
  • Help rural and economically distressed communities obtain access to public and private resources.
  • Support diverse organizations, including faith-based and other community organizations, minority colleges, and disability organizations.
  • Use service-learning principles to put volunteer and service activities into an appropriate context that stimulates life-long civic engagement.
  • Support continued civic engagement, leadership, and public service careers for our programs' participants and community volunteers.
  • Exhibit excellence in management and customer service.

We envision an organization that is:

  • A catalytic, coordinating, and creative force in realizing this vision for service in America.
  • A valuable resource to—and a partner with—national, state and local organizations that encourage community service and address community needs.
  • Entrepreneurial, innovative, effective, and efficient in utilizing its resources, influence, and activities.
  • A good steward of taxpayer dollars that operates programs in a cost-effective manner.
  • An agency with a demonstrated history of nonpartisanship.


Scott Belford (author) from Keystone Heights, FL on November 03, 2011:

Better late than never Average American, thanks for taking the time to read my hub and even more for giving us your comment.

I doubt anybody could disagree with you about your spine comment, for sure, but about the rest, well that is where all of the debate is about. I simply have to disagree with the notion that the operation of the Federal government is no more complex than a household and can, by extension, use the same budgetting methodolgy. To me, that kind of thinking is just too simplistic and will lead to disasterous consequences; there are many studies in complexity theory to validate that statement.

Even is situations where comparisons can be made, Conservatives still try to make it too simple; I will give you one example. You bought a house with a mortgage of 100,000 requiring annual payments of 10,000. When you bought the house you made $50,000 a year, but the 2008 recession happened you had to take a pay cut and now make $20,000 annually. You make your mortgage payment and somehow you are barely able to live on the other $10,000 a year (it is an example, just pretend). Believe it or not, this was the situation with the Federal government in 2001.

Unfortunately, a year ago you bought furniture with a years free interest (when you earned $50,000) if you paid it off in a year; you forgot to pay it off and now owe $1000.

However, your debt ceiling is $100,000, not $101,000 and you are going have to have a family meeting and agree on raising the debt ceiling $1,000 so you can borrow money from your mother to pay off this previously made obligation. You have to borrow the money because there is nothing you can cut from your household budget since the remaining $10,000 only pays for food, car, insurances, utilities,and other essentials.

The problem is, your wife and kids are members of the Tea Party and say absolutely not! Find something to cut in our household budget, there must be fat there somewhere; we aren't raising our ceiling and that is that! This is what faced Obama and the nation all Spring and Summer of 2011.

Average American from Las Vegas, Nevada on November 03, 2011:

I'm 11 months late to the party from the looks of it, however, viewing the government budget any differently than your personal budget is part of the problem. Just like at home, when things get tight you cut out non-essentials. Government must do the same. By non-essentials I mean non-constitutionally mandated programs. And don't reduce them, cut them out, eliminate them completely. It may sound like a nutty idea to a former DOD employee, but DOD is one of the Constitutionally mandated things this Federal government we created is supposed to be doing. Looking at the 12% of this budget that is discretionary is a good starting point, but the mandated stuff has to be attacked as well. This 88% that congress can't touch? Not where I come from. Congress can change the laws so they can tackle the problems. The real missing link here is spines in Washington...

Scott Belford (author) from Keystone Heights, FL on February 16, 2011:

First, some interesting statistics, at least to wonks like me.

First, the change in Federal Executive Civilian Workforce (where 95% of it exits) over time:

Kennedy/Johnson, 1962 - 1969: +555,000

Nixon/Ford, 1969 - 1977: -200,000

Carter, 1977 - 1981: -34,000

Reagan, 1981 - 1989: +258,000

H. W. Bush, 1989 - 1993: -117,000

Clinton, 1993 - 2001: -307,000

W. Bush, 2001 - 2009: +134,000

Obama, 2009 - 2010: an increase of somewhere between 153,000 and 200,000.

The second, related statistic is that in 1962 the total headcount of federal workers in the executive branch was 2.5 million, according to OPM. In 2009, at the end of Bush 2's Presidency, it was 2.8 million, a whole 12% growth in 47 years but DOWN 9% from the end of the Reagan era!

OK, think about it Opinion Duck, the size of the government workforce is basically what it was in 1962 and it is less than what it was in 1989. Tell me, how do we get from a basically flat workforce in the long-term, a decreasing workforce in the mid-term, and only in the short-term an increasing workforce into something that controls the deficit?

As to government workers not contributing to the GDP, well I can speak to that from personal experience. I can tell you that 100% of my salary, and now my retirement, goes directly to the GDP as it does for all federal workers. We participate in the economy just like every other American does, our dollar is spent on the same things yours is. I do agree that our benefits often were better than our counterparts in industry, but that is because our pay is not and never has been.

Personally, I could have made quite a bit more, maybe as much as 50% in my field, especially in my later years, but I chose not to for serveral reasons. Those reasons fell in two separate catagories, one was self-serving, job security, stability, and the knowledge that my employer would not stab me in the back; the other was service to country. Many of those that I knew who served at the level that I did served for the latter reason as well.

In addition, the public got their monies worth from most of us. (Yes, we had our share of hangers-on and worthless baggage, some of whom worked for me (one of these days I'll share a story that will curl your toes) but these people exist everywhere. Our particular problem, in the gov't were a set of rules that grew up in an evironment of political misconduct and abuse of employees up through the 40s and 50s where employees were treated as badly as they are in the private world today. It really is true that it is hard to fire a bad employee in the gov't but it can be done if the supervisor follows the rules.) Anyway, in my field cost analysis, for example, our job was to make sure, as best we could, the contractors we hired to build the things we needed and the gov't acquisition community who did the hiring were kept as honest as possible and were buying the product at the best price for the people of America. It was a tough job but we took it very seriously and our audience was at the very highest levels of the Air Force and DoD. Sometimes they actually listened to us and we saved the gov't a few hunderd million dollars. The management information system program I ran at the end of my career was credited with saving the Air Force roughly $10 million annually. I think you were getting a good return on the $2.5 million dollar annual budget I had including me and my staff's salary, including benefits. I wasn't the only one. My wife performed a valuable service for the people with her Department of Agriculture job, not a nice one for sure, but necessary. She foreclosed on deadbeat borrowers from Agriculture's single family rural family housing program.

What I am trying to show you is the federal workforce has a necessary job to do which must be paid for and they are jobs you generally do not want the private sector to do. No doubt there is waste and abuse which must be controlled but it is not anywhere near enough to be a measurable part of the deficit problem no matter how much the politicians whine and cry about it. Why do I know so much about this subject area? Things like this was part of my job as a cost analyst in the Air Force and DoD during the mid 1990s and 2000s. My area of concentration, as it were, was operating and support costs of running the military.

Companies are running out of the country for two reasons, 1) lower labor costs overseas and 2) because of tax breaks given to them that incentivizes them to do so. Obama is trying to end those tax breaks.

Companies are downsizing or going bankrupt, at least recently, because of the economic collapse that resulted fundamentally from a flawed economic philosophy that has been slowly been implemented since the the 1980s that replaced the one set up to protect the country after the Great Depression, but functionally because of the greed of first Wall Street and then citizens to make a fast buck.

The economy is actually growing right now just as it was before Clinton became President after the downturn from the Reagan Presidecny. First Bush, then Clinton raised taxes on the top 5% earners of the country and lowered taxes or kept them the same on the rest of us, just as Obama is proposing to do again. The result then, as it would probably be now, is increased revenues, continued growth, and a declining deficit. The parallel of 2010-2011 and 1993 - 1994 are striking, war or no war.

OpinionDuck on February 13, 2011:

Cutting spending can only really be expected to reduce the increase in future budgets.

The only way to even attempt to reduce the deficit is to reduce the size of government. The government workforce continues to expand even in this weak economy.

With the increase there is a decrease in GDP because government workers don't contribute to the GDP. Also these workers have expensive benefits and pensions as well as decent salaries. The more workers also means more places in the government to spend money.

Increased taxes also reduces the money that could be spent by consumers on products that do affect the GDP. Putting more money in the hands of government through taxes rewards government for not being fiscally responsible.

With over ten percent unemployment, and major companies going out of country, and major companies going bankrupt or downsizing, as well as mergers and acquisitions all reduce the tax revenue. There just aren't enough workers and consumers to tax for revenue to balance the budget or even substantially reduce the deficit.

How does increasing taxes on the federal, state, and local levels help the economy?

Scott Belford (author) from Keystone Heights, FL on November 26, 2010:

Thank you Jeremy, especially for playing. There are lots of departments to list but I should be completed shortly. When I am done with that, I will add more comments at the bottom regarding how tough it is to achieve your goals through spending cuts with some examples. But next, now that you have voted, I will modify my table so one can see the results. The first column will reflect the vote averages. The next two columns will show the high and low votes, respectively.

Jeremey from Arizona on November 26, 2010:

Much fun here. I for one like the polls idea and you present them well. I would like to see a results hub though to see what your intentions may be.

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