Welch, Lummis, D. Price unveil bipartisan bill requiring transparency in intelligence budget
Washington, DC (January 14th, 2014)- Today, Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), and Rep. David Price (D-NC) announced bipartisan legislation that would require disclosure of intelligence spending levels at each of the 16 federal agencies responsible for intelligence activities. They also released a bipartisan letter to President Obama urging him to begin disclosing these numbers when he submits his fiscal year 2015 budget to Congress next month.
Spending levels on intelligence activities are currently treated as classified information. H.R. 3855, The Intelligence Budget Transparency Act, would require the President to include in his annual budget submission to Congress the total dollar amount requested for intelligence activities at each intelligence agency.
The bill is sponsored by:
Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), Member of the House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security
Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Vice Chair of the House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security
Rep. David Price (D-NY), Ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security
Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), senior Member (and former Chairman) of the House Judiciary Committee
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), senior Member of the House Intelligence Committee
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), a senior Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and former Chair of the Republican Study Committee
Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), Member of the House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security
"The biggest threat to the successful implementation of a vital national program is the combination of unlimited money with non-existent oversight. That's the situation Congress has allowed to develop in the critical work of intelligence gathering,” said Rep. Welch. “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. 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."
“Providing for our national security and safeguarding Americans’ freedoms are fundamental roles of the federal government and ensuring effective intelligence is critical to that work,” said Rep. Lummis. “However, writing checks without any idea of where the money is going is bad policy. 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.”
“I believe this legislation will enhance our intelligence capabilities by providing Congress better insight into a sprawling bureaucracy,” said Rep. Price. “We know from reporting in the Washington Post, and by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s own testimony, that the budget of the Intelligence Community is shrinking. Like all other federal agencies, these agencies are being asked to do more with less. By breaking down top-line figures by agency, all Member of Congress, especially appropriators will be better equipped to conduct oversight and analysis and ensure the brave men and women in the Intelligence Community have precisely the tools necessary to keep us safe.”
The Intelligence Budget Transparency Actembodies a recommendation made by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9/11 Commission) and has been endorsed by Lee Hamilton, the 9/11 Commission’s Vice Chair and a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
“America needs competent and effective intelligence gathering agencies. And Congress must exercise prudent and diligent oversight to assure the American taxpayer is getting what it’s paying for,” said Hamilton. “The first step toward accountability and oversight is public disclosure of the top-line budget numbers of all our intelligence gathering agencies.”
The bill would apply to at least the following 16 agencies known to receive taxpayer funding for intelligence activities.
Air Force 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
The Welch-Lummis-Price letter to the President is below:
January 14, 2014
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
Ensuring America’s national security requires professional and competent intelligence agencies to perform this vital mission. But the urgency of the mission assigned to the sixteen agencies charged with this responsibility should not shield them from budget accountability and transparency. In fact, the urgency of their mission makes the need for transparency greater in order to assure Congress and the American people of the quality and effectiveness of their work.
As the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission Report) states, “when even aggregate categorical numbers remain hidden, it is hard to judge priorities and foster accountability.”
The current practice of providing no specificity whatsoever regarding the overall budget requests for each intelligence agency falls woefully short of basic accountability requirements.
In August, the Washington Post reported for the first time on the spending levels of individual intelligence agencies. This report provided a small but important window into the previously secret intelligence budget. For example, it revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency received a 56 percent increase in its budget over the past 10 years while the National Security Agency received a 54 percent increase.
As you develop your fiscal year 2015 budget, we strongly urge you to take a simple step toward much needed transparency by including the total amount requested for each of the sixteen intelligence agencies. We believe the top line number for each agency should be made public, with no risk to national security, for comparative purposes across all federal government agencies. Congress and the American people will be better served by knowing this basic information.
Mr. President, we understand you will soon announce a series of reforms regarding intelligence gathering, reporting and judicial review. Providing basic information about the intelligence budget in your fiscal year 2015 budget request would be a further step in the right direction and is wholly consistent with the recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission Report.
Rep. Peter Welch
Rep. Cynthia Lummis
Rep. David Price
Rep. Luis Gutierrez