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The United States public debt is the money borrowed by the federal government of the United States through the issue of securities by the Treasury and other federal government agencies. US public debt consists of two components

Debt held by the public includes Treasury securities held by investors outside the federal government, including that held by individuals, corporations, the Federal Reserve System and foreign, state and local governments.
Debt held by government accounts or intragovernmental debt includes non-marketable Treasury securities held in accounts administered by the federal government that are owed to program beneficiaries, such as the Social Security Trust Fund. Debt held by government accounts represents the cumulative surpluses, including interest earnings, of these accounts that have been invested in Treasury securities.

Public debt increases or decreases as a result of the annual unified budget deficit or surplus.[2] The federal government budget deficit or surplus is the difference between government receipts and spending, ignoring intra-governmental transfers. However, some spending that is excluded from the deficit (supplemental appropriations) also adds to the debt.

Historically, the US public debt as a share of GDP increased during wars and recessions, and subsequently declined. For example, debt held by the public as a share of GDP peaked just after World War II (113% of GDP in 1945), but then fell over the following 30 years. In recent decades, however, large budget deficits and the resulting increases in debt have led to concern about the long-term sustainability of the federal government's fiscal policies.[3]

On 13 December 2012, debt held by the public was approximately $11.579 trillion or about 73% of GDP. Intra-governmental holdings stood at $4.791 trillion, giving a combined total public debt of $16.370 trillion.[4][5][5][6] As of July 2012, $5.3 trillion or approximately 48% of the debt held by the public was owned by foreign investors, the largest of which were China and Japan at just over $1.1 trillion each.