Secrecy News

DoD Releases Military Intel Program Budget Docs

Newly disclosed Department of Defense annual budget documents reveal the structure and some of the contents of the Military Intelligence Program that supports DoD operations.

The U.S. intelligence enterprise as a whole is funded through two separate budget constructs: the National Intelligence Program (NIP), which supports national policymakers, and the Military Intelligence Program (MIP).  The Director of National Intelligence revealed last month that the combined annual cost of the NIP and the MIP is approximately $75 billion.  Of that amount, around $25 billion goes to the MIP.

Newly declassified budget justification books for the MIP help provide some insight into what all of that money buys.  They present a capsule description of more than a hundred individual MIP programs along with a report on their current status, from the Advanced Remote Ground Unattended Sensor (ARGUS) to the Tactical Exploitation of National Capabilities (TENCAP) program, as well as the space-based Nuclear Detonation Detection System, the ever-green Space Radar program, and many more.

All budget numbers have been painstakingly removed from the newly declassified documents, but otherwise DoD has exercised its secrecy authority relatively sparingly, and probably no more than 20% of the narrative text has been censored (including all discussion of human intelligence).  Some activities, such as the Special Operations Command program known as THORS MACE, are mentioned but were said to be too sensitive to describe even in the original classified budget documents.

The MIP budget justification books define twelve MIP budget “disciplines,” including not just the familiar HUMINT, IMINT, SIGINT, MASINT and Counterintelligence, but also Airborne ISR [Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance], Space ISR, All-Source Intelligence, and others.  See the Military Intelligence Program Congressional Budget Justification Books for Fiscal Years 2007, 2008, and 2009, released to the Federation of American Scientists under the Freedom of Information Act (in three large PDFs).

In practice, the boundaries between the MIP and the NIP are fluid, imprecise and subject to change.  In 2006, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) was funded 70% out of the NIP and 30% out of the MIP, the FY 2007 MIP budget book (pdf) observed.  In 2007, following a budget “realignment,” NGA was to be funded 90% out of the NIP and 10% out of the MIP.

For this reason, the current yearly practice of disclosing the total NIP budget alone is of limited value.  In fact, it may actually mislead, since a rise or fall in the NIP total may or may not signify an increase or decrease in total intelligence spending, as individual programs are shifted to or from the MIP.

An ODNI spokesman told the Washington Independent last September 15 that the MIP budget total is not classified– but that appears to be incorrect, and the DoD invoked the FOIA exemption for classified information to withhold the MIP budget numbers.  In any event, we have asked DoD to reconsider its position on the matter and to release the annual MIP totals.