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Posted: November 24, 2007
U.S. Congress discloses intel earmarks for first time
(Nanowerk News) In a break with tradition, Congress has revealed close to $80 million in earmarks boosting spy technology and training as part of the 2008 defense appropriations bill.
Both the aggregate intelligence budget and intelligence-related earmarks were secret until this year. President Bush signed into law in August a bill that enacted many of the Sept. 11 commission’s recommendations, including a provision declassifying the intelligence budget total. In October, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell said that the fiscal 2007 budget for spy agencies, excluding military intelligence, came to $43.5 billion.
Much of the intelligence budget is channeled through the defense-spending bill because most of the intelligence agencies are in the Defense Department.
All of the disclosed earmarked funding for the intelligence slice of the defense-spending bill will go to businesses and universities linked to the requesting lawmakers’ districts and states, many of them in Alabama, Ohio and California.
A good portion of the congressional earmarks this year focuses on spy satellite imagery and analysis as well as advanced technology.
For example, Ohio-based Ball Aerospace and Technologies’ Corp. is the intended beneficiary of a $2.4 million earmark sponsored by Rep. David Hobson (R-Ohio), a defense appropriator, to develop advanced geospatial intelligence exploitation tools, according to a database compiled by the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense.
Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) is the sponsor of a $5 million earmark going to the Environmental Systems Research Institute Redlands, Calif., which lies in his district. The institute would use the money for the Center for Innovative Geospatial Technology, according to Lewis’ earmark request letter. Among the center’s tasks is the creation of a homeland security common operational picture that expedites the flow of geospatial intelligence among agencies, first responders and tactical operators.
Lewis also secured $2.4 million for geospatial intelligence analysis education at the University of Redlands, Calif.
Meanwhile, 3001 Inc., whose slogan is “the geospatial company” will receive $2.5 million for a China geospatial data project, courtesy of a request by Reps. Charles Boustany (R-La.), Bobby Jindal (R-La.), now the governor of his state, and Terry Everett (R-Ala.), a senior member of the Intelligence Committee. 3001 Inc. is based in Fairfax, Va., but has offices throughout the country, including Louisiana and Alabama.
Rep. Robert “Bud” Cramer (D-Ala.), a defense appropriator as well as a member of the Intelligence Committee, was able to steer at least $10 million toward several businesses in Alabama, working on some earmarks in concert with Reps. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) and Everett. Cramer also has a strong ally on the Senate side for Alabama projects in Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), a veteran defense appropriator and former member of the Intelligence Committee. Alabama also is the home of the Missile and Space Command.
Among the projects sponsored by the members of the Alabama delegation are $2.4 million for an enhanced foreign system signature protection developed by Radiance Technologies in Huntsville, Ala.; $3.2 million for a simulation project undertaken by Miltec Corp., also in Huntsville; $2.4 million for Radiance to develop military support using the Helios/MSIC intelligence-gathering system; and $1.2 million slated for the University of Alabama for a laboratory of high-performance computational systems. Digital Fusion Inc., also based in Huntsville, will get $400,000 toward a rapid missile all-source analysis system.
While Alabama appears to receive the most disclosed earmarks, the biggest single earmark is $23 million for the controversial National Drug Intelligence Center in Rep. John Murtha’s (D-Pa.) district. The chairman of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee pushed the request through despite the Bush administration’s opposition and some of his colleagues’ reluctance to see it approved.
Meanwhile, Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) secured in conference talks a $4.8 million earmark in the intelligence part of the bill. The money would go toward a carbon nano-tube based radiation hard non-volatile random access memory, according to TCS’ database. Southwestern Missouri State University has been working together with other nanotechnology companies on the development of a test chip.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence panel, secured $6 million for the National Media Exploitation Center. The National Media Exploitation Center was established in late 2001 to coordinate efforts among the FBI, CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and National Security Agency (NSA) to analyze and disseminate information gleaned from millions of pages of paper documents, electronic media, videotapes, audiotapes, and electronic equipment seized by the U.S. military and intelligence community in Afghanistan and other countries.
The disclosure of member projects comes a year after former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.) went to jail for taking bribes in exchange of directing funding to companies in the intelligence portion of the defense bill. According to media reports, the government already spends close to 70 percent of its intelligence budget on private contracts, so it is not surprising that most earmarks in the bill benefit contractors.
Many contracts are kept under cloak of secrecy, befitting intelligence operations, but at the same time reducing the ability for oversight. The intelligence committees, the formal overseers of the intelligence budget, are slated to hold conference talks for the fiscal 2008 intelligence authorization bill in December.