You Ask, We Answer: How Much Do We Spend On Intelligence?

Nancy Albert, of San Juan, Puerto Rico asks how much do we spend on the CIA, and where in the budget would you find that money?

The short answer is, we don't know. Now here's the longer answer, which includes what we do know about what the government spends on intelligence, including the Central Intelligence Agency.

U.S. intelligence activities are funded through two budget pots – the National Intelligence Program (NIP) and the Military Intelligence Program (MIP).

NIP "topline" funding (that is, the total amount spent) has been a matter of public record since 2007. Prior to that the intelligence budget was technically classified, although at roughly $40 billion annually, it was considered one of the worst kept secrets in Washington. As a result of a mandate from Congress, the government began releasing the “topline” budget figure for the National Intelligence Program. Disclosure of the “topline” revealed total NIP spending for the fiscal year, but with no details on how the money is allocated – nothing about programs, functions, departments or agencies, including the CIA. According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence the NIP request for Fiscal Year 2013, released on February 14, 2012, is $52.6 billion.

The $53 billion NIP budget is not, however, the total amount the United States spends on intelligence. Additional funds are included in the Military Intelligence Program. The MIP “top-line” funding level was first released by the Pentagon in October 2010. The MIP request for FY 2013 is $19.2 billion, which includes funding in the Defense Department’s annual “base” budget and any additional funding related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So what is it we don't "know"? To put it simply, the Bush and Obama administrations have maintained that the topline figures released for NIP and MIP represent the totality of annual U.S. intelligence spending and that all intelligence spending is funded through the Department of Defense. Yet since the government releases no details it's impossible to independently verify this statement. Some budget analysts who watch intelligence funding are willing to take the government’s statement at face value, while others assert that given the government's penchant for secrecy with regard to its intelligence activities, its only reasonable to assume that there is more to this iceberg than meets the eye.

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