The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the U.S. intelligence agency that is responsible for developing and operating the nation’s intelligence satellites, has released a redacted version of its Congressional Budget Justification Book for the current fiscal year in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
“NRO systems allow users to quickly focus multiple sensors on almost any point on the globe to respond to emerging crises or operational requirements and provide persistent, multi-INT coverage,” the budget document says.
“With these capabilities the NRO is an indispensable contributor to national policymakers, the overall national intelligence effort, and the war on terrorism and ongoing military operations…. In addition to their primary intelligence missions, NRO systems increasingly support Homeland Security requirements.”
During the present budget year, the NRO said it is working “to improve the responsiveness of existing systems.” But it is also “developing new product types integrating multi-platform, multi-INT, and multi-domain data to maximize overhead performance and synergistically address the nation’s highest priority issues.”
The agency told Congress it has had “successes developing new operational concepts and sensor data processing tools enabling legacy satellites, designed against different collection requirements and operating well beyond their design lives, to effectively address current intelligence problems.”
The large majority of the NRO budget document has been redacted as classified and was withheld from public disclosure. But meaningful glimmers of fact or assertion can still be found in what has been released. For example:
NRO said it has accomplished a “recent 88 percent reduction in collection-to-analyst dissemination timelines.”
NRO expects to complete 15,000 initial and periodic security clearance reviews during the current fiscal year.
The budget document says the funding request for the NRO Inspector General was cut by 37% this year. The NRO said this reduction could be managed although sharp cuts in future budgets were discouraged: “There is no greater time when an organization is in need of oversight than in times of significantly decreasing budgets. It is during difficult fiscal decline that fraud is most likely to occur, when management controls weaken, and when unintended performance risks take root.”
The current NRO research agenda includes efforts “to take advantage of massive data sets, multiple data sources, and high-speed machine processing to identify patterns without a priori knowledge or pattern definition; [as well as] visualization and presentation of patterns for human interpretation to enable identification of normal and abnormal behaviors to detect, characterize, and identify elusive targets.”
The redacted budget document devotes at least cursory attention to NRO strategic planning, human resources, administration, facilities, information technology, and research and development, among other topics. Actual NRO budget numbers were not disclosed.