Secrecy News

DNI Announces $75 Billion Intelligence Budget

At a media roundtable last March 26 (pdf), Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair said that “I see my job as making sure that out of this almost 100,000 people and $45 billion that we spend, we get the absolute best intelligence to the President.”

But speaking to reporters yesterday (pdf) about the release of the new National Intelligence Strategy, he said “we’re talking about the very important business of a blueprint to run this 200,000-person, $75 billion national enterprise in intelligence.”

Despite these disparate accounts, the U.S. intelligence community did not double in size over the past six months, nor did it receive a new injection of $30 billion in funds.  Rather, the DNI was describing a consolidated budget for both the National Intelligence Program (NIP), which supports national policymakers, and the Military Intelligence Program (MIP), which supports military operations and activities.  See “Secretive spending on U.S. intelligence disclosed” by Adam Entous, Reuters, September 15.

While the NIP budget has been disclosed for the last two years ($43.5 billion in 2007, $47.5 billion in 2008), an official figure for the MIP had not previously been released (although it is not formally classified, an ODNI spokesman told Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent).

“This old distinction between military and non-military intelligence is no longer relevant,” DNI Blair said yesterday. “The problems that we face in the world have strong military, diplomatic, economic and other aspects that all work together and need to be supported by an interlocked and interweaving set of intelligence activities.”

However, the distinction between military and non-military intelligence remains significant in policy and budgetary terms, because while the DNI leads the National Intelligence Program, the Military Intelligence Program is directed by the Secretary of Defense.

Among other things, the new budget disclosure reveals that military intelligence spending has kept pace with the dramatic increase in national intelligence spending since 9/11.

When the budget for tactical military intelligence was inadvertently disclosed in a congressional document in 1994, it was $10.4 billion, at a time when the national intelligence budget was $16.3 billion (“Congress Mistakenly Publishes Intelligence Budget,” Secrecy & Government Bulletin, number 41, November 1994).  Since that time, spending in both categories has remained roughly proportional, as both have nearly tripled in size.

For all of his new budgetary candor, the DNI’s budget classification policies are incoherent and poorly justified.  As recently as this year, the ODNI said that the 2006 budget for the National Intelligence Program must stay classified, even though the 2007 and 2008 budget figures had already been declassified and released.  (“ODNI Denies Release of 2006 Intelligence Budget Figure,” Secrecy News, January 14, 2009).