Key Issues > Fiscal Outlook

Fiscal Outlook & The Debt

This section will help you understand the federal debt, how the federal deficit is measured, and the fiscal outlook that federal, state, and local governments face.

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GAO's federal simulations show that absent policy changes, the federal government faces a rapid and unsustainable growth in debt. Simulations of the state and local government sector show that not only the federal government faces fiscal challenges that will have a profound effect on government over the coming decades. A growing imbalance between revenue and spending is driven on the spending side by rising health care costs and the aging population, which in turn will lead to a rapid increase in spending on retirement and health programs.

In light of these challenges, GAO works to provide Congress and the public with updated analysis on the fiscal outlook for the federal government and for the state and local government sector and with answers to key questions about federal debt.


With virtually every American either contributing to or receiving Social Security benefits, the program’s financial future is important to many people. Get the facts on Social Security’s financial challenges, options to address them, and tools to evaluate what they mean for the future.

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Portrait of Susan Irving
Susan Irving
Director, Strategic Issues
Portrait of Michelle Sager
Michelle Sager
Director, Strategic Issues