Spies and Budget Cuts
Below is an article that appeared on Wired’s “Threat Level” blog on Monday 17, 2011…I’m putting it here because it’s one of those things that warrants follow-up scrutiny by all of those interested in the massive, decade-long expansion of our intelligence community, primarily through contract companies. How this cost cutting takes place (the back-room bargaining which we will probably only hear about through leaks) will tell us a lot about how firm a grip the contractors have on the intelligence community. Duplication of services should be a target of these budget cuts, but we’ll see how deeply some of the contractors’ lobbyists have penetrated congress by how this process moves forward.
U.S. Spies Facing Tens of Billions in Budget Cuts
America’s spies, like the rest of the nation, are looking ahead to a period
of austerity. The intelligence community is facing a “double digit” percentage
cut to its $80 billion annual budget, James Clapper, the director of national
intelligence, said today.
“Coincidentally today we handed in our homework assignment, if you will, to
[the White House Office of Management and Budget], and it calls for cuts in the
double-digit range with a ‘B’ over 10 years,” Clapper told the United States
Geospatial Intelligence Foundation’s conference in San Antonio,
As the federal government attempts to find over a trillion dollars in savings
to meet budget-cutting goals, even intelligence spending is not immune to cuts.
But the intelligence community does not normally divulge details of its budget,
citing the need to keep its spending secret from foreign adversaries who might
glean valuable information about the scope of activities. That changed a bit
under Clapper, who disclosed
earlier this year that the spy agencies were spending about $80.1 billion
Steven Aftergood, who watches
intelligence issues for the Federation of American Scientists, says that most
statements so far about possible cuts to the intelligence budget have only been
general in nature. “Double-digit cuts would be huge, and astonishing,” he
In recent congressional testimony, David Petraeus, the head of the CIA, and
Clapper, both talked about the potential for upcoming cuts to the intelligence
budget. “We have … had 10 years of steady increases,” Petraeus told a joint
congressional panel on intelligence. “Now we’re going to have to tighten our
Speaking today, Clapper expanded on previous comments, saying the spending
reductions will be absorbed in a number of areas, including cuts to the
information technology budget, slashing the contractor workforce, and possibly
closing some overseas facilities.
Information technology, however, may be the primary focus. Clapper said that
some 20 to 25 percent of the intelligence community’s budget is labeled as IT,
making it ripe for cuts. “If there’s an area where we can bring about efficiency
and savings, that’s it,” he said.
Overseas infrastructure may also have to shrink. “I think another thing we’ll
have to look at, and this will take time, is overseas facilities,” he said. “Do
we really need all of them or not?”
Clapper said the expected cuts should come as no surprise, given the
increased funding the community has benefited from in recent years. “We have
been luxuriously funded the past 10 years,” he said.
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