House Reverses Itself on Intelligence Budget Disclosure

Last week, the House of Representatives reversed itself on a provision mandating public disclosure of the total national intelligence budget. The move came less than 24 hours after President Bush signed into law (PL 110-53) the conference report to H.R. 1 that implemented many of the recommendations made by the 9-11 Commission.

The Administration had originally opposed the disclosure. Ultimately, a compromise was reached with the House and Senate that mandated the Administration disclose the figure in fiscal years (FY) 2007 and 2008. But, beginning in FY 2009 the President could waive or postpone the budget disclosure requirement by submitting a statement to House and Senate Intelligence Committees detailing that disclosure in that particular year could damage national security.

However, during consideration of the FY 2008 defense appropriations bill (H.R. 3222), an amendment offered by Rep. Darrell Issa, (R-CA) prohibiting the use of funds to disclose the intelligence budget number was approved by voice vote. The House approved the bill on August 5.

Despite the approval of the Issa amendment by the House, the Senate has yet to consider its version of the Defense Department FY ’08 appropriations bill. Similar language would have to be included in the Senate version or adopted in a conference report. Since the intelligence disclosure requirement is now law, and given the overall uncertainty concerning the passage of all appropriations bills this year, it remains to be seen whether Congress will ultimately change course on the issue.