By Carlo Muñoz - 10/31/12 05:22 PM EDT
The Pentagon has significantly scaled back spending on sensitive intelligence programs, slashing billions from those programs in fiscal 2012, according to a recent department statement.
The department's overall budget for its Military Intelligence Program (MIP) in FY12, which includes both baseline programs and those used to support combat operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere, topped out at $21.5 billion, DOD said on Tuesday.
On the civilian side, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) also issued its FY-12 budget figures on Tuesday, reflecting a decline in intelligence spending compared to FY-11.
However, the spending gap between fiscal years at ODNI was significantly smaller, totaling out to a $700 million reduction to classified intelligence programs.
The larger drop in MIP investments is indicative of the enormous fiscal pressure facing the department. Pentagon officials have already cut $500 billion in spending in its FY13 budget plan, sent to Capitol Hill in February.
Defense officials are also staring down the barrel of another $500 billion reduction to Pentagon accounts if the sequestration plan approved by Congress in last year's debt-reduction deal goes into effect in January.
The Pentagon and intelligence community have yet to release their budget numbers for fiscal 2013. Those figures likely won't be disclosed until next September, at the end of the fiscal year.
Aside from the spending numbers, both the Pentagon and ODNI included no details on where the reductions were made within their program portfolios.
"No other MIP budget figures or program details will be released, as they remain classified for national security reasons," according to the Pentagon.
With American troops now out of Iraq and planning to be out of Afghanistan by 2014, plus the increasingly difficult financial environment back home, intelligence spending was poised for a downtick, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said last year.
"We've experienced 10 years of growth — actually a fairly easy proposition, when you think about it, for the intelligence community, because every year all they had to do was hand out more money and more people," Clapper said at the time.
But news of the declining intelligence investment comes as Clapper and other members of the intelligence community are under increasing criticism for its perceived missteps in the run-up to the deadly consulate attack in Libya last month.
Congressional Republicans have continually pressed intelligence officials to disclose what they knew about the consulate strike in Benghazi, which ended in the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
The White House has come under intense scrutiny for its shifting accounts of the incident, initially claiming the strike was the result of a protest against an anti-Islam video that escalated.
U.S. intelligence and defense officials later characterized the strike as a terrorist attack, but maintained the raid was an opportunistic assault and not a coordinated attack by Islamic terror groups in the country.
Administration officials claim that initial assessment of a protest gone wrong was based on information provided by U.S. intelligence agencies to the White House at the time.
However, CIA officials on the ground in Benghazi reportedly notified Washington that the consulate attack was the work of Libyan militants in the region within 24 hours of the strike, according to recent news reports.