By CNN Sr. National Security Producer Pam Benson
The dramatic increases in the U.S. intelligence budget are coming to a screeching halt with billions of dollars in cuts expected over the next decade, according to the nation's chief intelligence officer.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the GeoInt conference in San Antonio, Texas, on Monday that the cuts will be double-digit billions over the next 10 years for the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the other groups that make up the 16-member intelligence community.
The total amount spent for non-military and battlefield intelligence was approximately $80 billion for the fiscal year that ended last month, more than double what it was prior to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack.
Clapper told CNN the cuts mandated by the Office of Management and Budget represents a lot of money, but the community has "pretty much figured out a way to do" it. He warned, however, that it will mean accepting some risk.
"I'm trying to use this as well as an opportunity to make some improvements. It's bad, but it's not all doom and gloom, but to be clear, we will be accepting some risk. We will not have quite the capability that we have today, which is very substantial," he said.
Clapper said the cuts will not be done by "salami slicing." The first priority will be protecting what he called "the most important resource we have ... our people." Without getting into detail, the director said certain capabilities will be maintained and there will be investments in new ones.
"Those are the resources that have the highest payoff and serve the most masters, meaning the most intelligence demands," Clapper said.
One area where there could be substantial savings is information technology). "If we can have an integrated (IT) enterprise, we would save a lot of money ... and, by the way, promote integration and be efficient," he said.
At a congressional hearing last month, Clapper said presiding over the budget cuts would be a "litmus test" for his office.
"Now that we're in a 'we're running out of money so we must begin to think' mode, I think that is serving as the stimulus, if you will, to do some more creative thinking," he said. And he vowed to be "rather cold-hearted and objective about the real contribution various systems make."