The Obama administration is facing calls to de-classify its so-called black budget and release the information to the public.
Currently there are 16 agencies involved in intelligence operations of some kind in the United States. While these agencies obviously have expenses including salaries, a person looking for budget numbers for the organizations in the current Congressional appropriations bill will search in vain for the information. The reason for the omission is that their budgets are considered to be classified and as such are kept secret from most members of Congress and the American people.
While this has been a routine practice for years, with the scrutiny being placed on the agency following revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden about the agencies bulk collection of data on nearly every American calls are now being made to declassify the budget in order to provide transparency.
Democratic Rep. Peter Welch said during a press conference on Tuesday that while he understands the concerns of Americans the trick is how to strike the right balance between transparency and national security while providing “accountability.”
“The biggest threat to the implementation of a vital national program is the combination of unlimited money with nonexistent oversight, and that’s essentially the situation that congress has allowed to develop in the critical work of intelligence gathering,”
Welch is sponsoring a bill that would pressure the White House to provide the total budget amount for the various agencies as well as the amount budgeted for each separate agency.
According to Snowden the annual black budget for the agencies was in the neighborhood of $52 billion. The documents Snowden released showed the lion’s share of the budget went to the CIA, which received $14.7 billion, representing 28 percent of the budget. He also revealed that since 2004 the CIA’s budget has increased by 56 percent.
Lawmakers have said while they agree about releasing overall budget amounts, they do not want to provide an itemized breakdown for each agency.
Their sources and methods should be private,” said Wyoming Republican Rep. Cynthia Lummis, a co-sponsor of the legislation told the Daily Caller. “We are not asking them to delve into their sources and methods, and we are not asking them to delve deeper into their budget priorities, other than to give us the topline.”
The sixteen agencies are: Air Force Intelligence, Army Intelligence, CIA, Coast Guard Intelligence, Defense Intelligence Agency, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, Treasury Department, Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, Marine Corps Intelligence, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, National Security Agency, and Navy Intelligence.