Bipartisan group looks to force 'black budget' into daylight

Bipartisan group looks to force 'black budget' into daylight
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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 WydenOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — Trump issues order to bring transparency to health care prices | Fight over billions in ObamaCare payments heads to Supreme Court Senate set to bypass Iran fight amid growing tensions Overnight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record MORE (D-Ore.) and Reps. Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchHillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Lawmakers grapple with deepfake threat at hearing Pelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote MORE (D-Vt.) and Cynthia LummisCynthia Marie LummisFormer GOP Rep. Cynthia Lummis files to run for Wyoming Senate seat Former Wyoming GOP lawmaker mulling Senate bid to replace Enzi Liz Cheney faces a big decision on her future 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.

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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 JordanOversight Republicans: 'Hundreds' of migrants in caravans have criminal histories Cummings requests interview with Census official over new allegations on citizenship question House Oversight Republicans release parts of Kobach, Trump officials' testimony on census citizenship question MORE (R-Ohio), Jim SensenbrennerFrank (Jim) James SensenbrennerBig tech braces for antitrust crackdown 58 GOP lawmakers vote against disaster aid bill 2020 Democrats put spotlight on disabilities issues MORE (R-Wis.), David PriceDavid Eugene PriceDemocrats advance more spending bills, defying Trump budget requests Ahead of infrastructure talks, House Democrats release 7B bill House Appropriations passes defense bill that would limit funds for border wall, pull US support from Yemen war MORE (D-N.C.) and Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.).