From a secrecy policy point of view, the Administration’s FY 2013 budget proposal that was released yesterday contained one surprise: The Department of Defense disclosed the amount of its request for the Military Intelligence Program (MIP). This is something that the Pentagon has never done before and indeed had refused to do.
“The Department of Defense released today the military intelligence program (MIP) requested top line budget for fiscal 2013,” the DoD said in a February 13 news release. “The total request, which includes both the base budget and Overseas Contingency Operations appropriations, is $19.2 billion.”
This disclosure is noteworthy from several points of view, and not only because it represents a sizable drop from the recent peak MIP budget of $27 billion in FY2010.
Significantly, the Pentagon was not obliged or compelled to release this information. In the FY2010 Intelligence Authorization Act (section 364), Congress mandated that the President “shall disclose to the public” the amount of the budget request for the National Intelligence Program (NIP). And that NIP budget request — $52.6 billion for FY 2013 — was also disclosed yesterday by the Director of National Intelligence, for the second year in a row.
But Congress was silent on public disclosure of the MIP request, and DoD was under no legal obligation to release it.
Moreover, DoD had explicitly refused to divulge its MIP budget request as recently as two months ago. In response to a FOIA request for release of last year’s MIP request, the Pentagon wrote on December 7, 2011 that the size of the MIP budget request “is currently and properly classified.” (See “DoD Says Military Intel Budget Request is Classified,” Secrecy News, December 14, 2011.)
So what happened between then and now? Something all too rare in the world of secrecy policy: DoD classification officials reconsidered their position and changed their mind. An impartial assessment of the matter evidently led to the conclusion that disclosure of the MIP budget request would not damage national security and therefore should not be classified.
The ongoing Fundamental Classification Guidance Review is an effort to systematically promote similar “impartial assessments” of all other aspects of national security classification.
The disclosure of the MIP budget request now goes on a short but weighty list of declassification “firsts” that have occurred in the Obama Administration, including routine publication of the NIP, MIP and aggregate intelligence budgets, disclosure of the size of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, and a handful of other revelations.
Yesterday’s news release announcing the MIP total request stated that “No other MIP budget figures or program details will be released, as they remain classified for national security reasons.” However, DoD budget materials that were released yesterday indicated that the new MIP budget request included $4.5 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations, a reduction from $5.8 billion in the current fiscal year.