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Intelligence Chief Reveals Obscure Budget Figure

To add some clarity and context to Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair’s disclosure this morning that the U.S. intelligence budget is $75 billion, it’s helpful to distinguish between two budget lines: the national intelligence program and the military intelligence program, with their inevitable NIP and MIP acronyms. Congress ordered recently that the NIP, but not the MIP, must be disclosed publicly, and that’s how we know that the U.S. spent $43.5 billion in 2007 and $47.5 billion in 2008 on the NIP, excluding intelligence support to military activities.

Michael Birmingham, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, clarified that Blair was talking about both figures, together, to make up the $75 billion total. And indeed, on the call in a different context, Blair spoke of no longer bifurcating military intelligence and national intelligence, saying that was no longer an appropriate distinction. Birmingham said that the national intelligence budget had not increased from last year’s $47.5 billion*. If there has been no NIP increase — and, by law, the director of national intelligence must disclose the budget line in October — that means that the Military Intelligence Program is budgeted at $27.5 billion.

Birmingham emphasized that the MIP total is not a classified number, but ODNI doesn’t put it on its Website, because its not “required by law” to do so. (It does put the national intelligence program figure on the site.) But Steve Aftergood, an intelligence analyst with the Federation of American Scientists who knows more about the intelligence budget than most anyone who isn’t inside the intelligence community, says the MIP number is certainly obscure. There are “no solid numbers on MIP,” Aftergood said in an email. “We knew it was more than $10 [billion] — but not how much more. So the 75B figure is quite interesting.”

Did Blair mess up by implicitly revealing that total? “No, absolutely not,” Birmingham said.

Clarification: Birmingham reiterates that the National Intelligence Program budget line hasn’t increased from $47.5 billion to $75 billion, but the actual total for this year’s NIP won’t be made public until October.

*You can follow TWI on Twitter and Facebook. *

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