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US intelligence budget for 2007 reported as $43.5b

Disclosure made under law sought by Sept. 11 panel

WASHINGTON - The federal government spent $43.5 billion on intelligence in 2007, according to the first official disclosure under a new law implementing recommendations of the Sept. 11 Commission.

Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell released the newly declassified figure yesterday. In a statement, McConnell said there would be no additional disclosures of classified budget information beyond the overall spending figure because "such disclosures could harm national security."

How the money is divided among the 16 intelligence agencies and exactly what it is spent on is classified. It includes salaries for about 100,000 people, multibillion-dollar secret satellite programs, aircraft, weapons, electronic sensors, intelligence analysts, spies, computers, and software.

Much of the intelligence budget, about 70 percent, goes to contractors for the procurement of technology and services, including analysis, according to a May 2007 chart from McConnell's office.

Intelligence spending has increased by a third in a decade, in inflation-adjusted dollars, according to Steve Kosiak at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

In 1997 and 1998, the Central Intelligence Agency voluntarily disclosed the intelligence budget at $26.6 billion and $26.7 billion, respectively. That disclosure was in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington.

Aftergood said he was somewhat surprised that the 2007 budget was not higher. He had conservatively estimated it at $45 billion. The national intelligence budget does not include at least $10 billion spent by military intelligence operations.

The intelligence budget itself increased sharply after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to heavily censored government charts.

By comparison, last year's intelligence spending is about half the $91 billion President Bush is proposing to allocate over the coming year to the Agriculture Department and somewhat more than the $35 billion budget of the Homeland Security Department.

US Senator Kit Bond of Missouri, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said yesterday that he will attempt to get the intelligence budgets from the past 20 years released.

The intelligence agencies have fought multiple legal attempts to disclose their budgets, including the CIA, National Reconnaissance Office, National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the agencies inside the State, Treasury, and Homeland Security departments, among others. They have argued that adversaries can divine secrets about intelligence activities if they can track budget fluctuations year to year.

According to a law Bush signed in August, overall intelligence spending must be disclosed 30 days after the close of the fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30. The government also must disclose the figure for next year. Beginning in 2009, presidents may waive the disclosure requirement if they can make the case to Congress that it would harm national security.

The requirement was a provision of a broad security measure that carried out recommendations of the Sept. 11 Commission in 2004. The panel argued that overclassification does not contribute to good government and that disclosing the overall spending for intelligence activities would help Congress in its oversight duties.

A top intelligence official inadvertently disclosed the overall intelligence spending figure two years ago at a conference in San Antonio that was open to the public. She said it was $44 billion.

National security analysts outside the government usually estimate the annual budget at about 10 percent of the total defense budget, which in 2007 was about $430 billion, plus nearly $200 billion in war spending. These analysts contend that about 80 percent of the intelligence budget is consumed by the national military intelligence agencies.

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