POLITICS

Obama Would Have To Unveil 'Black Budget' For Spy Agencies Under New Bipartisan Bill

01/14/2014 10:26 am ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

WASHINGTON -- Reflecting the growing concern about the opaqueness of America’s national intelligence apparatus, a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Tuesday introduced legislation that would require President Barack Obama to unveil budget figures for all 16 spy agencies.

In a letter to the president announcing the bill, the group argued that making these figures public would better serve both Congress and the public, and constitute “a simple step toward much-needed transparency.”

The push is being engineered by Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), a member of the Oversight Subcommittee on National Security, Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), vice chair of the Oversight Subcommittee on National Security, and Rep. David Price, ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security. In addition, it has the backing of some staunch conservatives, including Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), member of the House Judiciary Committee and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The actual funding lines for America’s spy agencies have been a matter of secrecy until recently, when the Washington Post obtained a $53 billion “black budget” list for fiscal year 2013 from Edward Snowden. That document, reported the Post, mapped “a bureaucratic and operational landscape that has never been subject to public scrutiny." The Post noted that while the government has released its overall intelligence spending every year since 2007, "it has not divulged how it uses the money or how it performs against the goals set by the president and Congress.” In particular, the black budget showed major increases in funding for the CIA and the NSA.

Under the proposed legislation, which is titled the “Intelligence Budget Transparency Act of 2014” and was first reported by Politico Huddle, the president, in his annual budget request, would have to make available both the total budget line items for the 16 agencies as well as estimated appropriation levels for the ensuing four fiscal years. He would not be required to go into any programmatic detail.

The sixteen agencies that would be affected by this are as follows:

  • Air Force Intelligence
  • Army 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
  • Navy Intelligence

Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, formally declined to comment on the legislative proposal. The president will be giving an address at the Department of Justice this Friday to outline his proposed changes to the NSA and America’s intelligence-gathering apparatus at large.

This story has been updated with a response from the National Security Council.

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