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August 29, 2013

US spying successes, failures, objectives detailed in top secret 'black budget'

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

In an introduction to the summary, Clapper said the threats now facing the United States "virtually defy rank-ordering." He warned of "hard choices" as the intelligence community — sometimes referred to as the "IC" — seeks to rein in spending after a decade of often double-digit budget increases.

This year's budget proposal envisions that spending will remain roughly level through 2017 and amounts to a case against substantial cuts.

"Never before has the IC been called upon to master such complexity and so many issues in such a resource-constrained environment," Clapper wrote.

The summary provides a detailed look at how the U.S. intelligence community has been reconfigured by the massive infusion of resources that followed the Sept. 11 attacks. The United States has spent more than $500 billion on intelligence during that period, an outlay that U.S. officials say has succeeded in its main objective: preventing another catastrophic terrorist attack in the United States.

The result is an espionage empire with resources and reach beyond those of any adversary, sustained even now by spending that rivals or exceeds the levels reached at the height of the Cold War.

This year's total budget request was 2.4 percent below that of fiscal 2012. In constant dollars, it was roughly twice the estimated size of the 2001 budget and 25 percent above that of 2006, five years into what was then known as the "global war on terror."

Historical data on U.S. intelligence spending is largely nonexistent. Through extrapolation, experts have estimated that Cold War spending likely peaked in the late 1980s at an amount that would be the equivalent of $71 billion today.

Spending in the most recent cycle surpassed that amount based on the $52.6 billion detailed in documents obtained by The Post, plus a separate $23 billion devoted to intelligence programs that more directly support the U.S. military.

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