By Pam Benson
Looming across-the-board cuts to the intelligence community budget will be devastating if Congress fails to act according to the nation's top intelligence officer.
"If sequestration is allowed to happen, it will be disastrous for intelligence," Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a group of intelligence officers and contractors gathered at a conference in Orland on Tuesday.
Clapper said every major intelligence program is "in jeopardy of being wounded" because the budget deal Congress passed last year does not allow the intelligence community any flexibility to prioritize needs.
"The current arrangement pre supposes that everything we do in intelligence is of equal import and we all know that's not the case,' Clapper said.
The cuts would be approximately 10% and would impact programs as well as personnel.
Letitia Long, the Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency referred to the upcoming cuts as a "salami slice" leaving the intelligence community with no ability to manage risk. "There's no flexibility to say I want to take all of it one area and therefore stop doing what my lowest priority might be," Long said.
Clapper said the nation is facing the most diverse set of threats he has seen in his nearly 50 year career and called on Congress to "avert this train wreck" when it returns to Washington for a lame duck session after the November elections.
The cuts are scheduled to go into affect in January 2013 if no deal is reached.