Federal Debt:

Debt Management Actions and Future Challenges

GAO-01-317: Published: Feb 28, 2001. Publicly Released: Feb 28, 2001.

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Paul L. Posner
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This report discusses the Treasury Department's debt management strategies in a period of budget surplus. As the level of debt held by the public has decreased, the Treasury has had to rethink its strategies for best achieving its three goals--having enough cash on hand, minimizing cost over time, and promoting efficient markets. The Treasury has used existing and new debt managing tools in response to the challenges posed by declining debt. In calendar year 2000, the Treasury began two new programs designed to improve market liquidity: regularly reopening existing debt issues rather than creating new issues, and conducting buybacks of about $30 billion in longer-term bonds before they matured, thereby enabling the Treasury to issue more new securities. In addition, higher issuance levels of short-term bills were made possible by eliminating longer-term notes. Capital markets have been adjusting to the reduced supply of Treasury securities. For example, capital market participants have begun using financial instruments other than Treasury securities as pricing tools for transactions. If projected budget surpluses materialize, the current combination of debt auction schedules, issue sizes, and maturities will be unsustainable over the next several years.

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