Bipartisan group looks to force 'black budget' into daylight

Bipartisan group looks to force 'black budget' into daylight
© Getty Images

Lawmakers in the House and Senate want to open up the “black budget," which sends billions of dollars to intelligence agencies in secret.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenCongress should take action to stop unfair taxation of the digital economy Trump officials take bold steps on Medicaid GOP steps up attack over tech bias claims MORE (D-Ore.) and Reps. Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchDivisions emerge over House drug price bills Trump CFO Weisselberg emerges as key person of interest for Dems Cohen claims batter Trump MORE (D-Vt.) and Cynthia LummisCynthia Marie LummisTrump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary Trump’s shifting Cabinet to introduce new faces The Hill's Morning Report — What a shutdown would mean for the government MORE (R-Wyo.) on Wednesday introduced legislation that would force the president to disclose in an annual report to Congress the top-line spending levels at each of the 16 federal intelligence agencies.


That would institute new openness in the U.S. government, the lawmakers said, while allowing the agencies to keep the details of the their programs secret.

"The biggest threat to the successful implementation of a vital national program is the combination of unlimited money with non-existent oversight,” Welch said in a statement. “That's the situation Congress has allowed to develop in the critical work of intelligence gathering."

Since 2007, the government has revealed the total annual budget for intelligence agencies and operations. But how that money breaks down among the CIA, National Security Agency, FBI, and 13 other agencies involved in intelligence work is classified.

For 2016, President Obama’s budget request included $53.9 billion for intelligence purposes. 

A copy of Obama’s 2013 budget request leaked by Edward Snowden showed that the CIA got the largest chunk of the $52.6 billion requested that year.

The new legislation isn’t the first time lawmakers have tried to get their hands on the “black budget.” Last year, Welch, Lummis and other lawmakers wrote to Obama asking him to reveal the top-line numbers for fiscal 2015; the White House declined to take that step.

A handful of other House lawmakers signed on to co-sponsor Wednesday’s bill, including Reps. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanJordan, Meadows backed by new ads from pro-Trump group: report Jordan jokes that sport coats inhibit him during heated hearings Attorney previously in contact with Cohen pushes back on pardon narrative to CNN MORE (R-Ohio), Jim SensenbrennerFrank (Jim) James SensenbrennerThe 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration Hillicon Valley: US threatens to hold intel from Germany over Huawei | GOP senator targets FTC over privacy | Bipartisan bill would beef up 'internet of things' security | Privacy groups seize on suspended NSA program | Tesla makes U-turn Shuttering of NSA surveillance program emboldens privacy groups MORE (R-Wis.), David PriceDavid Eugene PriceHouse pays tribute to Walter Jones Pelosi runs tight ship as more stormy waters await No GOP appetite for a second shutdown MORE (D-N.C.) and Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.).