Total Intelligence Budget for 2007-2009 Disclosed

Military intelligence budget figures that were disclosed last week document the steady rise of the total U.S. intelligence budget from $63.5 billion in FY2007 up to last year’s total of $80.1 billion.

The total intelligence budget is composed of two separate budget constructs:  the National Intelligence Program and the Military Intelligence Program.  Last October, the DNI revealed that the FY2010 budget for the National Intelligence Program (NIP) was $53.1 billion.  And the Secretary of Defense revealed that the FY2010 budget for the Military Intelligence Program (MIP) was $27.0 billion, the first time the MIP budget had been disclosed, for an aggregate total intelligence budget of $80.1 billion for FY 2010. But prior year aggregate figures were unavailable.

Previous year budget figures for the NIP had been released since 2007.  ($43.5 billion in FY2007, $47.5 billion in FY 2008, $49.8 billion in FY2009).  But those numbers provided an incomplete picture, officials admitted.

“I thought, frankly, we were being a bit disingenuous by only releasing or revealing the National Intelligence Program, which is only part of the story,” said DNI James R. Clapper at his July 20, 2010 confirmation hearing.  “And so Secretary Gates has agreed that we could also publicize that [the MIP budget]. I think the American people are entitled to know the totality of the investment we make each year in intelligence.”

Last week, the Pentagon quietly disclosed the budget figures for the Military Intelligence Program for FY 2007 to 2009 ($20.0 billion in FY2007, $22.9 billion in FY2008, $49.8 $26.4 billion in FY 2009).

The latest disclosure finally makes it possible to report the total U.S. budget (NIP plus MIP) for the last four years:  $63.5 billion in FY2007, $70.4 billion in FY2008, $76.2 billion in FY2009, and $80.1 billion in FY2010.

Collectively, these figures — for the NIP, the MIP and the total — represent the most sustained and detailed disclosure of U.S. intelligence spending that has been achieved to date.

Public release of the FY2007-2009 MIP budget figures was requested by the Federation of American Scientists under the Freedom of Information Act on October 2, 2009.

Why does intelligence budget disclosure matter?  There are several reasons.  As a general principle, nothing should be secret without a compelling reason.  Unnecessary secrecy needs to be challenged and overcome at every turn.

More particularly, the sharp rise in intelligence spending prompts the question whether it is justified by a valid requirement and a satisfactory record of performance.  The question deserves an answer, if only indirectly by means of competent congressional oversight.

Furthermore, budget disclosure is unique in that it is the only category of executive branch information whose periodic publication is specifically required by the U.S. Constitution (Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7):  “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.”

“Publication of the aggregate figure for national intelligence would begin to satisfy the constitutional requirement,” the Church Committee concluded in its monumental 1976 report on U.S. intelligence activities (Book 1, Chapter XVI [pdf]), “and would not damage the national security.”

Therefore, “the Committee recommends the annual publication of the aggregate figure.”  That 35 year old recommendation languished for decades but has now been realized to an unprecedented degree.  (Aggregate budget figures were previously disclosed for the years 1997-1998.)

“The Committee also recommends that any successor committees study the effects of publishing more detailed information on the budgets of the intelligence agencies,” the Church Committee report added.  No such study has been performed.

“No other MIP budget figures or program details will be released, as they remain classified for national security reasons,” the Pentagon said upon release of the new data on March 11.  However, it said precisely the same thing upon release of the 2010 budget figure last October, which nevertheless were followed by the latest disclosures.

Despite the preemptive warning, we have asked the Pentagon to release the MIP budget request for the coming year, in light of the fact that the FY2012 NIP budget request has already been released.

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