The Cable

Intel Community to Congressional Critics: Show Us Even More of the Money

The intelligence community has come under fire for failing to do enough to predict the rise of the Islamic State and Russian aggression in Ukraine. Its response: Give us more money anyway. In a press release on Friday, Nov. 21, the office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper announced it had increased its budget ...

Photo by Getty Images / Alex Wong
Photo by Getty Images / Alex Wong

The intelligence community has come under fire for failing to do enough to predict the rise of the Islamic State and Russian aggression in Ukraine. Its response: Give us more money anyway.

In a press release on Friday, Nov. 21, the office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper announced it had increased its budget ask from $49.4 billion to $50.4 billion. The office did not give a reason for the requested increase. When asked, the office referred Foreign Policy to a Nov. 10 White House budget request saying the money would be used to defray the cost of ramping up intelligence-collection efforts inside eastern Iraq and Syria.

Barack’s Obama administration is seeking new authorization from Congress specific to the current fight in Iraq and Syria, along with $5.6 billion in additional war funding.

"We now have a different type of enemy; the strategy is different," Obama said Nov. 5. "It makes sense for us to make sure that the authorization … reflects what we perceive to be not just our strategy over the next two or three months, but our strategy going forward."

Getting the money could be a tough sell given that critics, including some lawmakers from both main parties, have accused the U.S. intelligence community of failing to predict Russia’s invasion of Crimea and the Islamic State’s rapid conquest of broad swaths of Iraq and Syria.

In the case of the militants, the CIA did not have spies on the ground who could have tipped off the Obama administration, according to an earlier Foreign Policy report. FP also reported that in Crimea, American electronic eavesdropping systems were ineffective because Russian troops limited their use of cell phones, instead using couriers to send messages back and forth.

The intelligence community maintains that it had given sufficient warnings in both instances. Some also complain that the Obama administration has tried to turn the intelligence community into a scapegoat in an attempt to shift blame away from the White House. Money heals virtually all wounds, however, and many spies may think more warmly of the administration if Clapper manages to shake loose more cash.

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

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