Often referred to colloquially as “caps”, the proper formal term for spending limits is found in section 251 (BBEDCA) where the annual limits for a ceiling on categories of discretionary spending are set forth. The Budget Control Act of 2011 set these limits for ten years, through fiscal year 2021 and includes defense and non-defense categories. These limits were first set in statute in the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990, and were extended through fiscal year 2002 when they expired before being extended again by the BCA.
Overall limits on discretionary spending, which were originally set in the Budget Enforcement Act (BEA) and the enforcement of which expired at the end of fiscal year 2002. Congress, however, continues to set limits on discretionary spending, typically in concurrent budget resolutions, which are enforceable during the congressional budget process.
Discretionary Spending Limits
Nonsecurity Category: While it never took effect, as written into the law, the security category included discretionary budget authority for the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs, the National Nuclear Security Administration, the Intelligence Community Management account, and all budget accounts in the international affairs budget function (budget function 150). The nonsecurity category includes all discretionary budget authority not included in the security category. After the nonsecurity category was to expire, a single general discretionary category was to be in effect from fiscal years 2014 through 2021, Title I has a single spending category that covers all discretionary budget authority, with a specified spending limit for each of those years.