In addition to the fires that destroyed the World Trade Center and crippled the Pentagon,Tuesday's terrorist attacks reignited a long-standing debate over America's intelligence spending.
Pro-defense lawmakers claim a lack of funding has throttled U.S. intelligence operations,leaving the country markedly vulnerable. Critics,however,argue intelligence spending is already too high and call for a revamp of the existing system.
Sen. Wayne Allard (R,Colo.) said Wednesday he hopes Tuesday's disasters will prove the need for more intelligence spending,which funds spying,overhead reconnaissance and electronic intercepts,among other things.
“I have been saying for quite some time that if we decrease defense spending,we need to boost intelligence spending. Unfortunately we haven't been doing that,” Allard said from Washington,D.C.,minutes before he left his office for the Senate floor.
“We need more human intelligence,more spies on foreign soil,” Allard said,explaining his views result from testimony he heard during four years of membership on the Senate Select Committee On Intelligence.
U.S. intelligence spending dwarfs that of all our adversaries' spending combined,said Steven Aftergood,an Intelligence Policy Analyst with the Washington-based Federation of American Scientists.
Citing Central Intelligence Agency spending reports,Aftergood said total intelligence spending increased from $26.6 billion in 1997 to $26.7 billion in 1998.
Aftergood said that figure is likely $30 billion today,although the CIA has refused to release figures since 1998.
Allard counters,however,that the growth is not proportionate with the government's overall spending and,in some cases,has not kept up with inflation.
“Last year (Congress) increased spending by nearly $500 billion and none of that went to increased intelligence spending,” he said.
Nonetheless,Aftergood argues rather than simply boost spending,Congress should overhaul existing intelligence procedures and operations.
“This problem will not be solved by throwing money at it,” Aftergood said. “We need performance indicators so we can weed out things that don't work.”
Rep. Mark Udall (D,Colo.) said he backs the patient,deliberative approach.
“On the surface it seems we need more (intelligence spending),” Udall said Wednesday from Washington. “But before we rush into anything,we need to find out what exactly happened yesterday and direct our activities carefully.”
Udall said,rather than more spies on foreign soil,he sees a need for more “people who can look at the data we collect and analyze it.”
“There may be some other ways for us to cut off the legs of this terrorist movement,” Udall said.
Aftergood agreed: “Obviously lessons need to be learned from Tuesday's tragedies,but we need to be very careful and deliberate to make sure the right lessons are learned.”