In Washington, the launch of a budget request is hardly an unprecedented act. But it is when the official disclosing the budget is the director of national intelligence and the figures being released pertain to a budget, once under lock and key.
The release of the $55 billion budget, required by the 2010 Intelligence Authorization Act, is the first time the top-line numbers for the National Intelligence Program have ever been revealed.
“The disclosure of the budget request constitutes a new milestone in the ‘normalization’ of intelligence budgeting,” said Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy. “It sets the stage for a direct appropriation of intelligence funds to replace the deliberately misleading practice of concealing intelligence funds within the defense budget.”
Previously, funding for intelligence programs was scattered throughout the overall defense budget to maintain secrecy.
The debate about whether to release top-line numbers for intelligence spending has undergone a contentious debate over the years, wrote Aftergood, who has been skeptical of many aspects of government secrecy.
Intelligence officials long argued disclosure could harm national security.
While the release of the 2012 intelligence budget is the first ever to be released ahead of time, DNI Gen. James Clapper telegraphed the current disclosure, when, in November, he released the intel budget for 2010.
At that time, he said wanted to make the release of the budget a “standard practice”
Clapper promised changes for the six-and-a-half-year-old agency at his confirmation hearings last summer. And, he has made good on those pledges.
Along with disclosing the intelligence budget, he has also streamlined the Office of the DNI and implemented a chief-operating-officer-like position to better manage internal operations.
Perhaps Clapper said it best when, at his confirmation hearings, he proclaimed he wouldn’t be a “hood ornament,” as head of U.S. intelligence efforts.