NRO Releases Parts of 2011 Budget Justification Book

06.06.11 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the U.S. intelligence agency that builds and operates intelligence satellites, has just released unclassified portions (pdf) of its Congressional Budget Justification Book for Fiscal Year 2011.  The large bulk of the document remains classified and unreleased, but the newly disclosed portions reveal a few scraps of new information.

“The NRO brings unique capabilities to bear in support of national security objectives by… acquiring and operating the most capable set of satellite intelligence collection platforms ever built,” the NRO told Congress.

“In times of heightened tension, crisis, or even humanitarian or natural disasters, the value of NRO systems is even greater,” the budget document said.  “NRO systems are not only the first responders of choice for the DoD, IC [intelligence community], or policy decision makers, but also they are often the only source of information.”

However, the NRO complained that its “financial flexibility has been lost due to a steady proliferation of budget control lines, more restrictive reprogramming limits, and greater external involvement in resource decisions” (p.2).  The NRO has a massive annual budget that is probably on the order of $10 billion.

The 2011 NRO budget document introduced some new unclassified code names and programs such as “Ardent Gunslinger” (a “three tiered replacement next generation CORE backbone replacing existing ATM [asynchronous transfer mode] network”) (p. 451) and “Puppet Master” (a “replacement to the Future Architecture for Command and Telemetry Services”) (p. 455), among other curious bits and pieces.

“The NRO acquires and operates satellites that provide constant global access to critical information otherwise unavailable to the President, his cabinet, other national leaders and numerous customers in the Defense and Intelligence communities.  These satellites provide services in three broad categories:  GEOINT [geospatial intelligence], SIGINT [signals intelligence], and Communications (COMM).”

The FY 2011 NRO budget book was released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Federation of American Scientists.  As recently as 2006, the NRO had argued that its budget documents constituted “operational files” that are exempt from search and review under the FOIA.  We challenged that claim in a FOIA lawsuit and, remarkably enough, the court ruled (pdf) in our favor and against the agency.  Since that 2006 ruling by Judge Reggie B. Walton, the NRO has agreed to provide redacted versions of its budget book.  So have all other U.S. intelligence agencies except the National Security Agency, which uses a broad statutory exemption to withhold even unclassified agency information from public disclosure.

See all publications
Nuclear Weapons
New Voices on Nuclear Weapons Fellowship: Creative Perspectives on Rethinking Nuclear Deterrence 

To empower new voices to start their career in nuclear weapons studies, the Federation of American Scientists launched the New Voices on Nuclear Weapons Fellowship. Here’s what our inaugural cohort accomplished.

11.28.23 | 3 min read
read more
Science Policy
Expected Utility Forecasting for Science Funding

Common frameworks for evaluating proposals leave this utility function implicit, often evaluating aspects of risk, uncertainty, and potential value independently and qualitatively.

11.20.23 | 11 min read
read more
Nuclear Weapons
Nuclear Notebook: Nuclear Weapons Sharing, 2023

The FAS Nuclear Notebook is one of the most widely sourced reference materials worldwide for reliable information about the status of nuclear weapons and has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987. The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by the staff of the Federation of American Scientists’ Nuclear Information Project: Director Hans […]

11.17.23 | 1 min read
read more
Social Innovation
Community School Approach Reaches High of 60%, Reports Latest Pulse Panel

According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ August 2023 pulse panel, 60% of public schools were utilizing a “community school” or “wraparound services model” at the start of this school year—up from 45% last year.

11.17.23 | 4 min read
read more