THE UNITED STATES achieved its third consecutive federal budget surplus—
a record $237 billion—in fiscal 2000.1 This string of surpluses has
allowed the Treasury Department to begin to pay off the national debt.
After more than tripling from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s, outstanding
marketable U.S. Treasury securities fell from just under $3.5 trillion in
March 1998 to $3.0 trillion in July 2000. The Office of Management and
Budget (OMB) projects that the surpluses will continue, causing the debt
held by the public to be fully redeemed by 2012.