from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2010, Issue No. 59
July 21, 2010

Secrecy News Blog:


The size of the annual budget for the Military Intelligence Program (MIP), which has been classified up to now, will be publicly disclosed, said Gen. James R. Clapper, Jr., the nominee to be the next Director of National Intelligence. He said that he had personally advocated and won approval for release of the budget figure.

"I pushed through and got Secretary [of Defense Robert M.] Gates to approve revelation of the Military Intelligence Program budget," Gen. Clapper told Senator Russ Feingold at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday.

Since 2007, the DNI has declassified and disclosed the size of the National Intelligence Program (NIP) at the end of each fiscal year, in response to a legislative requirement. But despite its name, the NIP is not literally the whole "national intelligence program." Rather, it is one of the two budget constructs, along with the MIP, that make up the total U.S. intelligence budget.

Thus, when former DNI Dennis Blair said last September that the total intelligence budget was around $75 billion, he was referring to the sum of the NIP (which was $49.8 billion at that time) plus the MIP.

"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 Gen. Clapper. "And so Secretary Gates has agreed that we could also publicize that [i.e., the MIP budget]. I think the American people are entitled to know the totality of the investment we make each year in intelligence."

The MIP budget figure has not yet been formally disclosed. A Freedom of Information Act request for the number that was filed in October 2009 by the Federation of American Scientists remains open and pending.


Open government advocates believe that intelligence budget disclosure is good public policy and may even be required by the Constitution's statement and account clause. But what makes it potentially interesting to policymakers is that it would permit the intelligence budget to be directly appropriated, rather than being secretly funneled through the Pentagon budget as it is now.

"I would support and I've also been working [on] actually taking the National Intelligence Program out of the DoD budget," said DNI-nominee Gen. James R. Clapper at his confirmation hearing yesterday, "since the original reason for having it embedded in the Department's budget was for classification purposes. Well, if it's going to be publicly revealed, that purpose goes away."

Removing classified NIP funding from the DoD budget would be appealing to the Pentagon since it would make the DoD's total budget appear smaller. "It serves the added advantage of reducing the topline of the DoD budget, which is quite large, as you know, and that's a large amount of money that the Department really has no real jurisdiction over," Gen. Clapper said.

The primary obstacle to such a change in the structure of the intelligence budget may now lie in Congress, not in the intelligence community.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has just weakened an amendment to require annual disclosure of the NIP budget request at the start of the budget process -- which is a prerequisite to an open intelligence budget appropriation -- by making disclosure subject to a presidential waiver.

The original amendment, offered by Senators Feingold, Bond and Wyden, "was intended to make possible a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission to improve congressional oversight by passing a separate intelligence appropriations bill," explained Senator Feingold. But the effort to implement that recommendation "would be seriously complicated by the year-to-year uncertainty of a presidential waiver," he said in the revised markup of the FY2010 intelligence authorization act, released yesterday (at p. 76).


The Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, won plaudits for its contributions to intelligence oversight from Gen. James R. Clapper at his July 20 confirmation hearing to be the next Director of National Intelligence. But in the latest version of the intelligence authorization bill, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence yielded to White House opposition and abandoned a provision that would have enhanced GAO's role in intelligence oversight.

"The GAO has produced very useful studies," Gen. Clapper said. "I would cite as a specific recent case in point the ISR [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] road map that we're required to maintain and the GAO has critiqued us on that."

"I've been very deeply involved in personnel security clearance reform," he said. "The GAO has held our feet to the fire on ensuring compliance with IRTPA [intelligence reform legislation] guidelines on timeliness of clearances and of late has also insisted on the quality metrics for ensuring appropriate clearances."

"So I think the GAO serves a useful purpose for us," Gen. Clapper told Sen. Feingold.

But under pressure from the Obama White House, the Senate Committee stripped out a provision that would have ensured authorized GAO access to the intelligence community.

Paradoxically, executive branch opposition to GAO involvement in intelligence oversight may be a positive sign. It implies that GAO oversight would represent a meaningful change in the status quo and that it could usefully destabilize entrenched bad habits.

On the other hand, congressional reluctance to embrace GAO oversight is somewhat scandalous. If there is a single policy issued raised by the Washington Post's sprawling account of the sprawling intelligence industrial complex this week, it is the questionable adequacy of intelligence oversight.

Simply put, the size of the intelligence bureaucracy has more than doubled since 2001, but intelligence oversight capacity has not increased accordingly. A focused use of GAO assets offers one immediate way to correct that shortcoming.

But in its new report on the intelligence authorization act, the Senate Intelligence Committee said further study was needed before it could endorse GAO oversight.

"The Committee believes it is important to explore further the scope of current GAO arrangements with the Intelligence Community, the history of GAO's work on classified matters outside of the Intelligence Community, existing GAO procedures for working with classified information, and the extent to which future GAO investigations and audits of the Intelligence Community can be conducted by mutual agreement," the Committee said (at p. 71).

But the case in favor of GAO oversight is already quite strong and clear. General Clapper's personal testimony aside, there is a solid record on the subject thanks especially to Senator Daniel Akaka, who held a hearing on it in 2008. And a new DoD Directive specifies a role for GAO in oversight of DoD intelligence programs.

Legislation endorsing GAO oversight of intelligence sponsored by Rep. Anna Eshoo and colleagues remains pending in the House, and is strongly supported by Speaker Pelosi. I discussed the subject in a July 12 interview with Federal News Radio.

The new Senate markup of the intelligence authorization bill has some features that would improve accountability, said Sen. Feingold in a statement appended to the Committee report, but it "removes many other important provisions ... that were aimed at improving oversight and transparency, as well as accountability."


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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