By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 4, 2007
The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has authorized U.S. intelligence agencies to spend an estimated $48 billion in fiscal 2008, the largest amount ever included in an intelligence bill, thanks to inclusion of funding efforts associated with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In approving the bill Monday evening, the panel's chairman, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.), said, "The single largest intelligence authorization bill ever written by the committee [is] evidence of how important intelligence has become to our national security." While the exact numbers in the measure are classified, intelligence experts estimate it has grown nearly 4 percent annually in recent years.
The committee added to the Bush administration's funding request for "human intelligence" activities by the CIA and the Defense Department. In addition, Reyes noted, "we invest in language training for collectors and analysts and in language translation capabilities" and "add funding for sending additional analysts overseas."
Committee Democrats cut back on a group of classified CIA programs for Iraq that Reyes described as a wasteful "wish list" that lacks a "real strategy or metrics for evaluating its effectiveness." The committee's ranking Republican, Rep. Peter Hoekstra (Mich.), said yesterday that Republicans criticized these "deep cuts to classified CIA programs designed to help America fight and succeed in the conflict against radical jihadists." Neither would describe the nature of the secret activities.
Hoekstra and his colleagues also took issue with the committee's request for a national intelligence estimate on how global warming may affect U.S. national security. Reyes said the issue of a "global climate crisis" was raised by "several former military commanders." Hoekstra described it as a matter being handled by other agencies that would divert resources from the fight against terrorism. "Spending more on intelligence, but not spending it on the right priorities, is not the same as strengthening our intelligence community," he said.
The panel also asked for reports on the intelligence community's use of contractors, which appears to be rising in many areas formerly handled by government employees. Examples include a private contractor looking to recruit an individual to handle counterintelligence in Afghanistan under contract to the Pentagon's Counterintelligence Field Activity, and Allworld Language Consultants looking for an intelligence analyst at $126,260 a year for a contract in Iraq.
In the past two years, Congress has failed to pass an intelligence authorization bill, a situation that Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, recently called "disgraceful."