Changes in Discretionary Funding During the Past Few Years

Posted by Doug Elmendorf on
March 26, 2013

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, we think that some of our answers to follow-up questions from Congressional hearings may be of general interest, so we’re posting them.

Following a recent hearing, we were asked by a Member of Congress: “How do today’s discretionary funding levels compare with pre-recession funding levels?” Our answer was based on the House-passed legislation providing appropriations for the remainder of 2013. Since then, the Congress has approved a slightly modified version of that legislation, which provides total funding almost exactly the same as that in the House-passed version. So this answer to the question still holds:

With discretionary appropriations in 2013 based on H.R. 933 as passed by the House (including the effects of the sequestration in March) and on Public Law 113-2, the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013, total discretionary budget authority would be 5.4 percent higher this year than it was in fiscal year 2007 (the year before the recession officially began). Total annual discretionary budget authority increased by $57 billion over that period—from $1,070 billion in 2007 to an estimated $1,127 billion in 2013 (see the table below).

That difference is affected by a decline in funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the substantial appropriations made in 2013 in response to Hurricane Sandy (funding in 2007 included some funding in response to Hurricane Katrina and other hurricanes). War-related funding dropped from $170 billion for 2007 to $92 billion (including the effects of sequestration) for 2013, a reduction of $78 billion. However, the funding for 2013 related to hurricane relief and recovery was $40 billion higher than the amount provided for similar activities in 2007.

Excluding appropriations for those purposes, discretionary budget authority rose from $892 billion in 2007 to $987 in 2013, an increase of about 11 percent. During that period, prices (as measured by the consumer price index for urban consumers) rose by 13 percent, and nominal gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 16 percent. As a result, discretionary appropriations—based on the House-passed appropriations for 2013 and excluding funding for overseas contingency operations and hurricane relief—declined by 2.2 percent in real (inflation-adjusted) terms between 2007 and 2013 and dropped from 6.4 percent of GDP to 6.2 percent of GDP over that period.

Discretionary Budget Authority in Fiscal Years 2007 and 2013