Spies seek $3 billion budget boost

The nation’s intelligence agencies are asking Congress for a more than $3 billion increase in funding for 2016. 

Included in President Obama’s nearly $4 trillion budget blueprint unveiled on Monday is a “black budget” request for $53.9 billion to fund spying programs in six federal departments as well as the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

That would be a sizable increase from the $50.5 billion given to spy agencies last year, and the $52.7 billion given in 2013. The 2013 figure was ultimately reduced to $49 billion, due to across-the-board sequestration cuts.

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The higher figure reflects growing fears about the strength of Islamic extremist groups in the Middle East as the U.S. winds down its military mission in Afghanistan, but still seeks to stay on top of potential threats from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other violent groups.

“World events of the past year reflect the number and complexity of national security challenges facing our nation and its vital interests around the globe,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in response to the funding request.

The 2016 budget “supports U.S. national security goals, and positions the [intelligence community] to meet the demands of the future,” it added, by “adapting and reshaping” intelligence operations “to meet new strategic challenges and opportunities for years to come.”

Among other improvements, the money will expand the ability of the 17 different intelligence agencies throughout the government to securely share information with each other. The funding increase will also allow agencies to use newer technology and ways of collecting data to provide early warnings and make sure that spies are not left behind as new technologies evolve, the administration said.

The fiscal 2016 funding request would match what Congress gave to the spy offices operating under the umbrella of the National Intelligence Program in 2013.

Full details about the breakdown of the classified “black budget” will remain secret, as disclosures might unwittingly detail ongoing operations among the agencies.

The $53.9 billion in requested funds included an unspecific amount for overseas operations in support of the U.S. military.

In 2013, documents released by Edward Snowden showed that the CIA received the largest slice of the classified “black budget,” followed by the National Security Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office, which builds and operates spy satellites.