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Office of Nation’s Top Spy Inadvertently Reveals Key to Classified National Intel Budget

R. J. Hillhouse the author of OutsourcedIn a holdover from the Cold War when the number really did matter to national security, the size of the US national intelligence budget remains one of the government’s most closely guarded secrets.  The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the highest intelligence agency in the country that oversees all federal intelligence agencies, appears to have inadvertently released the keys to that number in an unclassified PowerPoint presentation now posted on the website of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). By reverse engineering the numbers in an underlying data element embedded in the presentation, it seems that the total budget of the 16 US intelligence agencies in fiscal year 2005 was $60 billion, almost 25% higher than previously believed.

In the presentation originally made to a DIA conference in Colorado on May 14, Terri Everett, an Office of the Director of National Intelligence senior procurement executive, revealed that 70% of the total Intelligence Community budget is spent on contractors.  (This was reported by Tim Shorrock on Salon.com.)  Everett also included a slide depicting the trend of award dollars to contractors by the Intelligence Community from fiscal year 95 through a partial year of fiscal year 06 (i.e. through August 31st of FY06.)  Because these figures are classified, a scale of the total number of award dollars was omitted from the Y-axis of the bar chart.  The PowerPoint presentation was first obtained by Shorrock for Salon.com and it was later posted on the DIA’s website where I downloaded it.  Although it would not have been visible to the conference attendees, the data underlying the bar graph–the total amount of Intelligence Community funds spent on contractors–is readily available in the actual presentation.  By double clicking on the bar chart,  a small spreadsheet with the raw classified data appears:


(To view this spreadsheet in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s actual PowerPoint presentation, make sure you are opening the presentation in the PowerPoint program and not a web browser, view slide #11 and, depending upon your version of PowerPoint, making sure you’re not on the 9/11 image object double-click on the chart or right click on it and choose Chart Object/Open.)

Here are the dollar amounts in tens of millions spent by the US Intelligence Community on contractors, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, as embedded in the spreadsheet data underlying the bar graph (pictured above):


Note:  FY06 data as of 31 August.  (The numbers are in tens of millions of dollars, although this is not noted, but it is previously known that the amount spent on contracts is a double-digit billion plus dollar figure.)

This 70% of the Intelligence Community budget spent on contractors most likely includes all Intelligence Community direct acquisitions from contractors, including satellites and other very expensive hardware programs as well as more mundane supplies in addition to contracted services–(e.g. “green badgers” or staff contracted to the CIA.)  The remaining 30% of the Intelligence Community budget most likely includes both personnel (i.e., civilian federal employee) and as well as intergovernmental operations and maintenance and supplies (e.g. payments by some Intelligence Community elements to GSA to lease office space and acquire government pens and office supplies.)  By taking the 70% of the intelligence community budget that now goes to contractors in conjunction with the actual dollars spent on contractors, it is possible to reverse-engineer the budget using simple algebra.

This top line $60 billion figure is 25% above the estimated $48 billion budget for FY 08.  It is quite probable that this total figure was not even known by the government until recently.  Greater control and oversight of the Intelligence Community budget was a hallmark of the Intelligence Reform Act of 2004 that created the position of the Director of National Intelligence and gave it the mandate to get an overview of the entire amount spent on intelligence government-wide.  To this end, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has recently gathered all parts of the previously fragmented Intelligence Community budget together for the first time as part of its Intelligence Resource Information System (IRIS).   In the report from the Select Senate Committee on Intelligence released last Thursday, the committee praised the Office of the Director of Intelligence for creating a “single budget system called the Intelligence Resource Information System.”  It also recognizes their efforts in helping create what “will be used for further inquiry by the Committee’s budget and audit staffs and will be a baseline that allows the Congress and DNI to derive trend data from future reports.”   

Earlier, lower estimates were most likely only included what fell directly under the Director of Central Intelligence and which would have omitted parts of NSA, NRO.  A total Intelligence Community number, with the Intelligence Community as defined by 50 U.S.C. 401a(4), would also now include the various military intelligence services (e.g. Army Intel, Navy Intel, etc.), each with its respective weapon technology intelligence exploitation shop.   A total budget would also include a large portion of the budget of the Department of Homeland Security which was previously fragment across multiple government agencies.  A $60 billion government-wide Intelligence Community budget is not at all out of line with the post 9/11 organizational reality.  It seems that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is just now getting a clear picture of the fragmented intelligence community budget. 

The overall Intelligence Community budget has long been a well kept secret and this classification did once have relevance when a large shift in the budget could have indicated to the Soviets an addition or cancellation of a major defense program.  Now that our greatest adversaries are stateless entities that run on a shoestring budget and strike soft targets, signals of changes in high-dollar defense systems hardly seem worth hiding.  Nonetheless, the federal government has frequently gone to court to keep the amount of the national intelligence budget secret.  Only the budgets for 1963, 1997 and 1998 have been officially revealed, largely in response to FOIA lawsuits.  And in 2005 a US News reporter picked up an apparent slip of the tongue by an official of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence at a conference when it was stated the national intel budget was $44 billion, but it was not clear which fiscal year this was in reference to and the DNI refused to confirm if the figure was accurate or the release accidental. At this time, they would not have had total dollar figures through the new IRIS system.  But with such a staggering budget, it does seem that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence would be well advised to find some room in the Intelligence Community budget for a staff training on PowerPoint and OPSEC.

About R J Hillhouse

Dr. Hillhouse has run Cuban rum between East and West Berlin, smuggled jewels from the Soviet Union and slipped through some of the world’s tightest borders. From Uzbekistan to Romania, she’s been followed, held at gunpoint and interrogated. Foreign governments and others have pitched her for recruitment as a spy. (They failed.)

A former professor and Fulbright fellow, Dr. Hillhouse earned her Ph.D. in political science at the University of Michigan. Her next novel, OUTSOURCED (Forge Books, June 12) is about the turf wars between the Pentagon and the CIA and the privatization of national security.

* This article is republished here with the author’s permission.


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