$52.6 billion

The Black Budget

Covert action. Surveillance. Counterintelligence. The U.S. “black budget” spans over a dozen agencies that make up the National Intelligence Program.
Explore the top secret funding

Funding the intelligence program

The CIA, NSA and National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) receive more than 68 percent of the black budget. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Program’s (NGP) budget has grown over 100 percent since 2004.

The top five agencies, by spending

Central Intelligence Agency

Collect, analyze, evaluate, disseminate foreign intelligence and conduct covert operations.

Agency fiscal year budget
since 2004, not inflation-


Approximate percentage
growth from 2004 to 2013

National Security Agency

Protect the government’s information systems and intercept foreign signals intelligence information.


National Reconnaissance Office

Design, build, and operate the nation’s signals and imagery reconnaissance satellites.


National Geospatial-Intelligence Program

Generate and provide imagery and map-based intelligence, which is used for national security, U.S. military operations, navigation and humanitarian aid efforts.


General Defense Intelligence Program

Provide assessments of foreign military intentions and capabilities to policymakers and military commanders. Conduct human and technical intelligence collection, document and media management.


Four main spending categories

Top secret spending can be divided into four main categories: data collection, data analysis, management, facilities and support and data processing and exploitation. The CIA and NRO are heavy on data collection while the NSA and NGP focus on data processing and exploitation as well as auxiliary functions like management, facilities and support.

Funding five mission objectives

$20.1 billion

Warning U.S. leaders about critical events

Warn policymakers, military and civilian authorities of threats, such as economic instability, state failure, societal unrest and emergence of regional powers.


Combating terrorism

Monitor and disrupt violent extremists and suspected terrorist groups that plot to inflict harm to the U.S., its interests and allies.


Stopping spread of illicit weapons

Prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.


Conducting cyber operations

Prevent cyber intrusions and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.


Defending against foreign espionage

Detect attempts by adversaries to penetrate U.S. government.

Thirty-two types of expenses

Each agency has a unique breakdown of expenses that reflect the priorities of its mission. There is no specific entry for the CIA’s fleet of armed drones in the budget summary, but a broad line item hints at the dimensions of the agency’s expanded paramilitary role, providing more than $2.5 billion for “covert action programs” that would include drone operations in Pakistan and Yemen, payments to militias in Afghanistan and Africa, and attempts to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program.

107,035 employees in the intelligence community


Full-time equivalent (FTE) civilian employees

CIA employs the most civilian FTEs: 21,459

equals 100 employees


Military positions

NSA employs 64 percent of all military personnel in the program: 14,950


Full-time contractors

The number refers to contractors who occupy full-time positions in core functions for U.S. intelligence agencies. The category generally does not include employees of companies that have been hired by the agencies for a service or project.

NOTE: Graphics do not include $514 million allocated for the Central Intelligence Agency retirement and disability system.

Related story

U.S. spy network's successes, failures and objectives detailed in ‘black budget' summary

U.S. spy agencies have built an intelligence-gathering colossus since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but remain unable to provide critical information to the president on a range of national security threats, according to the government's top secret budget.

Budget document sheds light on raid that killed bin Laden

Inside the 2013 U.S. Intelligence Black Budget