Intel Agencies to Withhold Contract Info from Public Database

12.18.07 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

Several defense intelligence agencies will withhold unclassified information about their contracts from a new public database of government spending.

The new database at USAspending.gov is intended to provide increased transparency regarding most government contracts.

But when it comes to intelligence spending, there will actually be a net loss of public information because categories of intelligence contracting data that were previously disclosed will now be withheld.

The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and the Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) argued that online disclosure of their unclassified contracts could present an operational security vulnerability.

“I appreciate your concerns that reporting these actions to the publicly accessible website could provide unacceptable risk of insight to your individual missions and budgets,” wrote Shay D. Assad of the Under Secretary of Defense in a December 7 memorandum (pdf).

“As such, I concur with your waiver requests to not report your unclassified actions to FPDS-NG [Federal Procurement Data System – Next Generation] at this time,” he wrote.

The new waiver, which was first reported by Daniel G. Dupont in InsideDefense.com, applies to unclassified contract data for FY 2007 and 2008, and must be renewed each year thereafter.

But it does not apply retroactively, so it is possible to examine detailed contracting information for thousands of intelligence contracts with DIA and NGA from FY2005-2006, ranging in amounts from tens of dollars to hundreds of millions of dollars. (Prior contract information for CIFA is not currently available.) Those intelligence agencies’ past contracts can be examined using the drop-down menu for contracting agency on this page.

The sharp growth in intelligence agency contracting has prompted new concern in Congress and elsewhere. The latest intelligence authorization act (section 307) requires a “comprehensive report on intelligence community contractors.”

But while intelligence contracting is going up, public accountability is going down.