Classified budget numbers concealed in an unclassified PowerPoint document suggest that total U.S. intelligence spending is significantly larger than generally assumed, perhaps around $60 billion annually.
The briefing document (ppt), prepared by Terri Everett of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), was first obtained by Tim Shorrock of Salon, who wrote a probing account of the growing prominence of contractors in U.S. intelligence agencies, who now consume 70% of the total intelligence community budget. See “The corporate takeover of U.S. intelligence,” Salon, June 1, 2007.
Annual intelligence contract awards were illustrated in a bar chart in Ms. Everett’s briefing document, without dollar figures attached. But by using the edit function in Power Point, it is possible to discern the classified figures that were used to prepare the bar chart.
R.J. Hillhouse, an author and former intelligence officer who writes on intelligence and outsourcing, explained how to retrieve the concealed data in her blog The Spy Who Billed Me. See “Office of Nation’s Top Spy Inadvertently Reveals Key to Classified National Intel Budget,” June 3.
The data appear to indicate that $42 billion was awarded to contractors in FY 2005. If so, and if that represented 70% of the total budget, as stated in the preceding Power Point slide, it would follow that the total is $60 billion, rather than the $45 or $48 billion usually cited.
Intelligence officials were not available to comment on the disclosure, and a certain amount of deliberate obfuscation surrounds the subject such that it is hard to draw a firm numerical conclusion regarding overall spending. The new budget figures on contractor awards do not distinguish, for example, between “national” and military or tactical intelligence, nor is it clear whether they account for supplemental appropriations.
Update: I mistakenly referred to author R.J. Hillhouse as a former intelligence officer; she’s not. But she has provided continuing exploration of this topic on her blog The Spy Who Billed Me. Other interesting follow-up stories that have appeared are “Intel budget numbers revealed on public PowerPoint slide show” by Daniel Friedman, Federal Times, June 7; and “Intel Budget May be Buried in Powerpoint” by Laura Heaton, United Press International, June 6.