Spotlight: Bureau of the Public Debt

Which small agency within the U.S. Department of the Treasury auctions and issues more than $9 trillion in securities every year? The Bureau of the Public Debt (BPD)—under authority derived from Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which empowers Congress to borrow money on the credit of the United States—borrows the money needed to operate the federal government and accounts for the resulting debt. It does this by selling Treasury bills, notes and bonds (as well as $195 billion in U.S. Savings Bonds each year), and then redeeming investors’ securities. It also provides administrative, financial management and information technology services to other federal agencies on a fully reimbursable basis through its Administrative Resource Center (ARC).

The bureau is responsible for six programs:

  • Wholesale Securities Services, which ensures that the government’s critical financing needs are met and that the integrity and efficiency of primary and secondary markets for Treasury securities are maintained;
  • Government Agency Investment Services, which offers specialized investments for government entities at the federal, state and local levels;
  • Retail Securities Services, the public’s source for information about U.S. Treasury products and services, which serves more than 55 million investors in Treasury securities;
  • Summary Debt Accounting, which provides policy, direction, guidance and leadership for managing the public debt (including reconciling more than $77 trillion of securities transactions and related cash flows annually);
  • ARC Franchise Services, which provides administrative and information technology services to more than 70 federal agencies, including all of Treasury, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security; and
  • The Do Not Pay Business Center, which aims to prevent improper payments through programs funded by the federal government.

While BPD’s headquarters office is at 799 Ninth Street, N.W., in Washington, D.C., about 95% (between 1,850 and 1,900) of its nearly 2,000 employees are based in Parkersburg, WV. The bureau has had a presence in Parkersburg since 1954, when the city—because of its location in a rural, “non-critical target area”—was designated as a relocation site for BPD in the event of a national emergency. In 1957, Parkersburg became home to the bureau’s new electronic processing center and its “Great Brain,” a first-generation, 25-ton, 6,000-square-foot computer; between 1993 and 1996, BPD consolidated and transferred most of its operations to Parkersburg.

As we reported last month in our Spotlight piece on the Financial Management Service (FMS), President Obama’s FY 2013 budget proposes consolidating BPD and FMS into a single organization (with a budget of $308 million), to be called the Fiscal Service. This would enable the Fiscal Service to achieve greater operational and administrative efficiencies by combining the two agencies’ resources.