Although an overall intelligence budget was not released last year, then-Director Dennis C. Blair told reporters in a teleconference that the overall budget was $75 billion. At that time, the officially released National Intelligence Program budget was $49.5 billion.
The disclosure Thursday that intelligence spending had risen to $80.1 billion, an increase of nearly 7 percent over the year before and a record high, led to immediate calls for fiscal restraint on Capitol Hill.
The new total is more than double what was spent in 2001, noted Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. However, that was before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, prompted major shifts by the intelligence community.
"I intend to identify and remove any waste and unnecessary duplication in the intelligence budget and to reduce funding for lower-priority activities," Feinstein said in a statement. She added: "It is clear that the overall spending on intelligence has blossomed to an unacceptable level in the past decade."
Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, joined Feinstein in calling for fiscal restraint on the part of the intelligence community. He said that, along with Feinstein and her vice chairman, Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.), he had put cost controls on major systems, such as intelligence satellites, and looked forward to helping to "eliminate the waste, fraud and irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars."
The Washington Post series "Top Secret America" described the growth and spread of the U.S. intelligence community since 2001. In an interview for the series, Gates said he didn't think the intelligence bureaucracy and its contractors had grown too large to manage. But he added: "Nine years after 9/11, it makes sense to sort of take a look at this and say, 'Okay, we've built tremendous capability, but do we have more than we need?' "
Gates has commissioned a major review of the Pentagon budget, with a goal of finding $100 billion in excess spending over five years, thus reducing the growth of the Defense Department budget to about 2 percent annually excluding the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
CIA Director Leon Panetta told The Post that he knew intelligence spending faced reductions and that he was working on a five-year plan for his agency.
Steven Aftergood, who publishes the Secrecy News blog for the Federation of American Scientists, has pushed for disclosure of the top line intelligence budget for years. He said Thursday that the release of the new figure permits the government "to speak realistically about the level of intelligence spending."
He also said it took 30 years to get to this point, after convincing skeptics that the release of the figure would not harm national security. "I don't see now an avalanche of intelligence disclosures," he said.