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In an all-too rare display of bipartisanship in Washington D.C., a nearly-equally divided group of both congressional Democrats and Republicans are currently co-sponsoring legislation seeking more transparency of the top line budgets of both the National Intelligence Program (NIP) and Military Intelligence Programs (MIP).

If successful, the legislation is sure to turn up the heat in an already increasingly contentious relationship of late over the breadth and scope of surveillance programs operated by the sixteen federal agencies involved, and the congressional committees charged to oversee them. Before it's all over, it's almost certain that the White House will jump into the fray as well.

Despite claims to the contrary, the executive branch hasn't maintained a good track record throughout the years for transparency, especially when it comes to so-called national security matters -- even though some secrecy is expected and even necessary when the federal government is protecting "national security interests."

We do know the base amounts of the budgets for intelligence. And believe it or not the totals are a wee bit less than recent years.

As anticipated, the requested U.S. intelligence budget for Fiscal Year 2015 that was submitted to Congress this week fell below the current year’s level and continued a decline from the post-9/11 high that it reached in FY 2010.

The “base” funding request for the National Intelligence Program (NIP) for FY 2015 was $45.6 billion, while the base funding request for the Military Intelligence Program (MIP) was $13.3 billion. (“Base” funding does not include funding for “overseas contingency operations,” which is to be requested later in the year.)

Base funding also doesn't include funding for any 'black ops' conducted by the agencies involved.

Secrecy News: From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

By comparison, the base funding request for the NIP in FY 2014 was $48.2 billion, and the base funding request for the MIP was $14.6 billion. Additional data on intelligence budget appropriations can be found here.

An unclassified summary of the FY 2015 National Intelligence Program budget request (that was included in the overall budget request) implied that the publication of the request was a voluntary act of transparency.

“Reflecting the Administration’s commitment to transparency and open government, the Budget continues the practice begun in the 2012 Budget of disclosing the President’s aggregate funding request for the NIP,” the summarysaid.

However, after recent allegations that the CIA has been monitoring congressional committee staffers, and perhaps their bosses as well, dozens of elected representatives have determined even more transparency is required, including Rep. Cynthia M. Lummis (R-WY) who introduced The Intelligence Budget Transparency Act of 2014 (HR 3855). The bill would require total disclosure of the budgets for all 16 individual agencies
“Writing checks without any idea of where the money is going is bad policy,” said Rep. Lummis in a January 14, 2014 release. “Disclosing the top-line budgets of each of our intelligence agencies promotes basic accountability among the agencies charged with protecting Americans without compromising our national security interests.”

“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,” added Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), a co-sponsor of the bill. “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.”

Apparently, the DoD already complied with a separate request for transparency.
Many of the classified portions of the new Department of Defense budget request were tabulated in “Read the Pentagon’s $59 Billion ‘Black Budget’” by Brandy Zadrozny, The Daily Beast, March 6.

Since 9-11 (if not before) Republican legislators usually have not been in favor of disclosure of individual agency intel budgets. But perhaps recent media accounts of clandestine surveillance of Congress members by the CIA have changed their minds on cooperating with Democrats on this particular issue.

Preceding the introduction of this legislation, a February 12th letter to President Obama, requested the individual budget figures. The bipartisan letter was signed by a total of 62 congressional members.

This legislation may be the result of non-compliance by the White House.

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