How the Intel Community Spends its Supplemental Wartime Budget

A day after the Washington Post published selected parts of the—until now—secret National Intelligence Program budget summary from fiscal 2013, the Web site Cryptome.org did the paper on better, posting the entire 43 pages from Vol. 1 of the document, as opposed to the 17 pages the Post released.

Aside from the $52 billion top line number that we learned funds the intelligence community, probably the most interesting number in the document is the $4.9 billion earmarked for in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), otherwise known as the money that funds the war in Afghanistan, and operations elsewhere around the globe.

Since the $4.9 billion for the intelligence community (IC) is supplemental to the base budget, it funds all kinds of activities that the IC wouldn’t be able to undertake otherwise. But it also means that the cash is always in danger of being taken away. And as the war in Afghanistan winds down–and with it the yearly OCO funds–losing that cash will be a significant issue in coming years.

But for now, the cash is still flowing.

About $2.6 billion of the OCO in 2013 money went to the CIA, while another $730 million was marked for the key Consolidated Cryptologic Program which already ate up about $11 billion of the base budget.

In his introduction, Clapper wrote that “we are bolstering our support for clandestine SIGINT capabilities to collect against high priority targets, including foreign leadership targets. Also, we are investing in groundbreaking cryptanalytic capabilities to defeat adversarial cryptography and exploit internet traffic.”

In other words, the IC is working on new methods to break into encrypted emails and other Web traffic, and it is using war funding to do so.

General Defense Intelligence program—which assists military intelligence agencies—received about $3.6 billion in the base budget, and also received another $774 million in OCO funding, while the National Geospatial Intelligence program which provides mapping and imagery analysis received about $540 million in OCO funds on top of its $4.3 billion in base funding.

Cryptome itself is an interesting story. Started by architects Deborah Natsios and John Young in 1996, the bare bones, slightly under-the-rader site has become a repository for classified and secret documents that deal mostly with intelligence collection and cryptology.

In his introduction to the budget document, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper wrote that as Yemen, Somalia, and the Horn of Africa begin to become more of a priority in US counterterrorism efforts, the intel community “is increasing efforts in those regions. Furthermore, we are sustaining CT capabilities in Libya to deny extremists a safe haven.”

But while the IC’s scope may be expanding, it is also looking for ways to reduce how much it relies on OCO funds.

That $5 billion in supplemental funding buys a lot of capability, but Clapper wrote that his office is working to “reduce our reliance on OCO as a funding vehicle,” by transferring to the base budget “some enduring long term activities.”

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Paul McLeary

McLeary covers national security policies at the White House, Pentagon, the Hill, and State Department.
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