Secrecy News

Deliberating the Intelligence Budget in France

Although last year’s budget for national intelligence was disclosed, current year spending remains classified, reflecting a judgment by the Bush Administration that its disclosure would cause serious damage to national security.

So it is interesting to see that current intelligence spending is treated matter-of-factly in some other countries, and publicly disclosed without any fanfare at all.

In France, for example, the intelligence budget is addressed as part of the normal deliberative process.

The latest parliamentary budget report notes the precise staff levels of each of the French intelligence services, their individual budgets, and the total amount of spending on intelligence for the coming year: 743.5 million euros, with a total of 9,500 employees.

Not only that, but the parliament notes that French intelligence resources compare unfavorably with those of key allies such as the United Kingdom (3.3 billion euros, with 13,400 staff) and Germany (16,500 employees, budget not given).

This disparity could become a problem, the report notes candidly, because intelligence sharing with foreign partners is predicated on the ability of each side to provide useful information to the other.

(“En matière de renseignement, la capacité à obtenir des informations de la part de partenaires étrangers repose sur la possibilité d’en fournir en échange. Avec des services français de qualité mais dont la taille et les budgets sont sensiblement inférieurs à ceux des deux autres principaux acteurs dans le domaine en Europe, c’est la possibilité même de travailler sur un plan d’égalité qui finira par être remise en question.”)

See the French parliamentary discussion of intelligence spending here.

While current intelligence spending remains classified in the United States (though it must be disclosed by the end of next October), the Federation of American Scientists this week asked the Director of National Intelligence to declassify past intelligence spending levels dating back to the beginning of the National Foreign Intelligence Program.

Last October, Senator Kit Bond (R-MO), Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said (pdf) he is “hopeful that the top line numbers for previous fiscal years will be declassified so the public can get a full accounting of the government’s priorities over the last two decades.”