Report: Funding for drone transfer blocked in spending bill

Members of Congress included in the $1 trillion omnibus spending bill a provision that protects the CIA’s lead role in U.S. drone operations, The Washington Post reported. 

The provision would further block the transition of the program from the CIA to the Pentagon — a goal President Obama mapped out last year. 

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Quoting officials, The Post reports the provision is tucked into the classified portion of the spending bill, and it would restrict funds from being used for the transfer of the program. There is no mention of the program in the publicly available version of the bill. 

Another person quoted in the report said the provision is more complex than simply withholding money to fund the transfer. Congress could have also set benchmarks that the Pentagon must meet before the program is handed over, The Post reported. 

The spending bill easily passed the House on Wednesday and is slated to sail through the Senate later this week. 

In May, Obama said he wanted to begin moving the drone program out of the CIA’s hands and into Pentagon control to make the process more transparent. 

However, a series of reports last year found that the transfer had stalled or slowed down at best. 

Currently the CIA and the Pentagon operate separate drone programs geared toward eliminating high-level terrorist targets around the world. According to The Post, the policy shift would have the most effect on Yemen, where both the Pentagon and CIA operate overlapping programs. 

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has lobbied to consolidate the programs under Pentagon control. 

But Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has expressed concern that the Pentagon would not be able to maintain the same sort of restraint over the controversial program.