White House opposes cuts in intel bill, but stops short of veto threat

The White House on Wednesday stopped short of a veto threat but warned the House against cutting intelligence funding.

The House on Thursday is set to begin work on H.R. 754, which would specify intelligence spending levels for the rest of fiscal 2011 and reduce the budget authority of intelligence agencies by $47 million. Most of that cut would come in the current fiscal year, although it would have the effect of reducing spending over the next few fiscal years.

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In a statement of administration policy, the White House warned that cutting funding and personnel from various intelligence agencies would put critical intelligence-gathering and analysis at risk, and called on members to maintain current funding levels.

The White House did not threaten to veto the bill, and instead said it "looks forward to working with the Congress" to address these issues.

"The reductions would result in less capability than exists today," the White House said in the statement. "The administration opposes the reductions in personnel levels below what was funded in the FY 2011 Appropriations Act and urges the Congress to authorize those funds as appropriated."

The statement added that cuts proposed by the House would "effectively make unavailable over $200 million of already appropriated funds for critical intelligence capabilities."

The White House also said it opposes a requirement in the bill that the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) create an "insider threat detection program." The statement said this program is already being developed, and that it is "concerned with the unrealistic timelines required by this provision for the program's operational readiness, and strongly requests that the provision be amended to grant the DNI flexibility in implementation timelines of the program."

The House is expected to debate and vote on the rule for H.R. 754 on Thursday, which could lead to calls from Democrats that Congress should not be cutting intelligence funding, particularly in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden. A final House vote on the bill is expected Friday.