Options for Reducing the Deficit: 2014 to 2023

November 13, 2013

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In addition to the printer-friendly version of the complete volume, see the Summary Table for a complete list of options and their budgetary savings or find budget options according to their major budget category, budget function, and topic.

The Congress faces an array of policy choices as it confronts the dramatic increase in the federal government’s debt over the past several years and the prospect of large annual budget deficits and further increases in that debt that are projected to occur in coming decades under current law. To help inform lawmakers about the budgetary implications of various approaches to changing federal policies, CBO periodically issues a compendium of policy options that would affect the federal budget as well as separate reports that include policy options in particular areas.

This volume presents 103 options that would decrease federal spending or increase federal revenues over the next decade. Those options cover many areas, including defense, energy, Social Security, health care programs, other benefit programs, and provisions of the tax code. The budgetary effects identified for most of the options span the 10 years from 2014 to 2023 (the period covered by CBO’s May 2013 baseline budget projections), although many of the options would have longer-term effects as well.

This volume presents options in the following categories:

The chapter of options related to health includes 5 broad approaches for reducing spending on health care programs or revenues forgone because of tax provisions related to health care as well as 11 options that are similar in scope to others in this volume. The volume also includes a chapter on the challenges and the potential budgetary effects of eliminating a Cabinet department.

The options included in this volume come from a variety of sources. Some are based on proposed legislation or on the budget proposals of various Administrations; others came from Congressional offices or from entities in the federal government or in the private sector. As a collection, the options are intended to reflect a range of possibilities, not a ranking of priorities or an exhaustive list. Inclusion or exclusion of any particular option does not imply endorsement or disapproval by CBO, and the report makes no recommendations. This volume does not contain comprehensive budget plans, although it would be possible to devise such plans by combining certain options in various ways (although some overlap with others).

In addition to the budget options examined here, CBO has also presented many other options in various publications it has issued in recent years.


On November 19, 2013, CBO reposted this report with corrections to passages in Mandatory Spending, Options 14 and 19.

On December 5, 2013, CBO revised the Summary Table of Options to present savings that combine changes in revenues and changes in mandatory spending and the Collected Tables to correct display formats.

On June 12, 2014, CBO corrected a column heading in the table for Revenues, Option 35.

Options (excluding health-related options)