On Tuesday (Jan.14) Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), and Rep. David Price (D-NC) announced bipartisan legislation that would require disclosure of intelligence spending levels at each of the 16 federal agencies responsible for intelligence activities. They also released a bipartisan letter to President Obama urging him to begin disclosing these numbers when he submits his fiscal year 2015 budget to Congress next month.
Spending levels on intelligence activities are currently treated as classified information. H.R. 3855, The Intelligence Budget Transparency Act, would require the President to include in his annual budget submission to Congress the total dollar amount requested for intelligence activities at each intelligence agency.
“The biggest threat to the successful implementation of a vital national program is the combination of unlimited money with non-existent oversight. That’s the situation Congress has allowed to develop in the critical work of intelligence gathering,” said Rep. Welch. “The top-line intelligence budgets for America’s 16 intelligence agencies are unknown to the American taxpayer and largely unknown to the Members of Congress who represent them. It’s led to dubious policies, wasted money and questionable effectiveness. Requiring the public disclosure of top-line intelligence spending is an essential first step in assuring that our taxpayers and our national security interests are well served.”
Welch told The Daily Caller that the legislation was not directly related to the treasure trove of classified documents released last year by Edward Snowden, one of which was the black budget for a number of the agencies indicating that the United States spends about $52 billion a year on intelligence. However, Welch said Snowden’s releases “really raised the question as to whether we’re way out of balance in the security versus privacy balance. The revelation that there’s this huge metadata program where everybody’s phone logs and everybody’s emails are in custody of the NSA is very disturbing. That wasn’t the intent of the Patriot Act, and it’s given an indication that there’s a lack of oversight when it comes to intelligence gathering activities.”
“Writing checks without any idea of where the money is going is bad policy,” said Rep. Lummis. “It would also give people a comparison from year to year, illustrating which agencies were becoming more or less dominant.”
The bill would apply to at least the following 16 agencies known to receive taxpayer funding for intelligence activities.
Air Force Intelligence
Central Intelligence Agency
Coast Guard Intelligence
Defense Intelligence Agency
Department of Energy
Department of Homeland Security
Department of State
Department of the Treasury
Drug Enforcement Administration
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Marine Corps Intelligence
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
National Reconnaissance Office
National Security Agency
The bill is sponsored by:
Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), Member of the House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security
Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Vice Chair of the House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security
Rep. David Price (D-NY), Ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security
Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), senior Member (and former Chairman) of the House Judiciary Committee
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), senior Member of the House Intelligence Committee
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), a senior Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and former Chair of the Republican Study Committee
Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), Member of the House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security
January 14, 2014
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
Ensuring America’s national security requires professional and competent intelligence agencies to perform this vital mission. But the urgency of the mission assigned to the sixteen agencies charged with this responsibility should not shield them from budget accountability and transparency. In fact, the urgency of their mission makes the need for transparency greater in order to assure Congress and the American people of the quality and effectiveness of their work.
As the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission Report) states, “when even aggregate categorical numbers remain hidden, it is hard to judge priorities and foster accountability.”
The current practice of providing no specificity whatsoever regarding the overall budget requests for each intelligence agency falls woefully short of basic accountability requirements.
In August, the Washington Post reported for the first time on the spending levels of individual intelligence agencies. This report provided a small but important window into the previously secret intelligence budget. For example, it revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency received a 56 percent increase in its budget over the past 10 years while the National Security Agency received a 54 percent increase.
As you develop your fiscal year 2015 budget, we strongly urge you to take a simple step toward much needed transparency by including the total amount requested for each of the sixteen intelligence agencies. We believe the top line number for each agency should be made public, with no risk to national security, for comparative purposes across all federal government agencies. Congress and the American people will be better served by knowing this basic information.
Mr. President, we understand you will soon announce a series of reforms regarding intelligence gathering, reporting and judicial review. Providing basic information about the intelligence budget in your fiscal year 2015 budget request would be a further step in the right direction and is wholly consistent with the recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission Report.
Rep. Peter Welch
Rep. Cynthia Lummis
Rep. David Price
Rep. Luis Gutierrez