What is the National Debt?
The term national debt refers to direct liabilities of the United States Government. There are several different concepts of debt that are at various times used to refer to the national debt:
Public debt is defined as public debt securities issued by the U.S. Treasury. U. S. Treasury securities primarily consist of marketable Treasury securities (i.e., bills, notes and bonds), savings bonds and special securities issued to state and local governments. A portion is debt held by the public and a portion is debt held by government accounts.
Debt held by the public excludes the portion of the debt that is held by government accounts.
Gross federal debt is made up of public debt securities and a small amount of securities issued by government agencies.
Debt held by the public is the most meaningful of these concepts and measures the cumulative amount outstanding that the government has borrowed to finance deficits.
The Bureau of Fiscal Service publishes on its website, TreasuryDirect.gov:
The Financial Management Service publishes:
Also see Treasury's Debt Limit page
Additional statistics on the public debt may be found in: