Intel budget continues decline after post-9/11 buildup

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Cliff Owen/AP

This story was been updated twice with comment.

As required by law, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has made public the intelligence community’s budget, reporting on Tuesday a figure of $53.9 billion, a slight drop from the 2011 budget of $54.6 billion.

The Defense Department the same day released its portion of the intelligence budget, putting the military intelligence line item for 2012 at $21.5 billion, down from the 2011 figure of $27 billion.

Together, the roughly 4 percent drop continues a recent reduction in the intelligence budget since the rapid buildup following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Both agencies keep further details of the budgets classified.

October 2011marked the first-ever public release of the top-line governmentwide intelligence budget.

Paul R. Pillar, a 28-year CIA veteran who is now a security studies fellow at Georgetown University, told Government Executive, “It is no surprise that the intelligence budget, which has tended to move in tandem with overall national security spending, should be decreased somewhat for the coming year. Nor is this an unhealthy development. There is no single optimal or required level of spending for intelligence. Rather, this is a matter of how much of this type of support to national security the nation wishes to buy, knowing there are always opportunity costs."

There is no reason, he added, that intelligence programs, “shouldn't share in the necessary pain and have to make do with less.“

Ray McGovern, another CIA veteran who helped found the advocacy group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, said, “With that budget more than doubling since 9/11, it's high time it started `undoubling.’ When you have more money than you know what to do with, that spells trouble.....especially unaccountable money.”

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