WASHINGTON - Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Reps. Peter Welch, D-Vt., and Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., rolled out legislation Friday that would require the president to disclose the topline annual budget request to Congress from each of the 16 federal agencies conducting intelligence activities.
Currently, spending levels for these federal intelligence agencies and activities is classified and hidden from the public, the lawmakers said.
The Intelligence Budget Transparency Act would require the president’s annual budget request to make public the amount of funding budgeted for intelligence agencies and activities, creating greater transparency and oversight over how much is spent annually by the intelligence community.
“By operating secret programs funded by secret budgets, our national intelligence agencies enjoy a blank check as far as the American taxpayers are concerned,” Wyden said. “With little to no public oversight, it is even more important that Americans have at least some sense of whether they’re getting what they paid for. Requiring the disclosure of these budget requests is the first step in achieving greater accountability and transparency of these agencies.”
“Protecting our national security means keeping many things secret from our enemies, but Congress should not be the ones in the dark. Just as the military can provide budget information without jeopardizing our security, so too can the Intelligence Community. This bill would declassify the top-line budget number of each of our Intelligence Community entities, adding a level of much-needed transparency,” said Senator Paul.
"The biggest threat to the success of any federal program is a combination of unlimited money and non-existent oversight. That's the situation Congress has allowed to develop in the critical work of intelligence gathering,” Welch said. “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. Americans have a right to know how their tax dollars are being spent and that their national security interests are being well served.”
“Properly funding our intelligence gathering agencies is critical to keeping Americans safe and secure. However, failure to disclose budgetary requests for these agencies does not meet the most basic government transparency standards,” Sensenbrenner said. “By declassifying the top-line budgets of each agency, this bill expands accountability to make certain taxpayer dollars are spent effectively while still protecting national security.”
The bill would require disclosure of funding requests from the following agencies: Air Force Intelligence, Army Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, Coast Guard Intelligence, Defense Intelligence Agency, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Treasury, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Marine Corps Intelligence, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, National Security Agency, Department of State, and Navy Intelligence.