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U.S. spies to rely more on allies due to budget austerity

By Tabassum Zakaria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. intelligence agencies will rely increasingly on international allies for information sharing as budgets tighten in the current climate of austerity, a senior intelligence official said on Thursday.

"Our dependency on our allies ... is going to grow," Defense Intelligence Agency Deputy Director David Shedd said. He was speaking at a Center for Strategic and International Studies forum on information sharing.

The federal government is in belt-tightening mode and President Barack Obama is expected to release his 2013 budget proposal on February 13.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in October said he had proposed to the White House "double-digit" budget cuts in intelligence programs over 10 years.

"In the context of budget austerity, I think the concept certainly worth considering is burden sharing, where we look at another country to have primacy on a collection and potentially in areas of analysis," Shedd said.

He would not name specific foreign allies but said while the United States has a global presence on intelligence, it might not have the depth in certain areas that another country might.

"What the budget austerity does is drive you to think about different models," Shedd said. "It's actually thinking about models very differently from where we have been where we go build it ourselves."

Shedd said the demand for intelligence has grown since the 1990s.

In fiscal 2011, the U.S. budget for all intelligence activities, including civilian and military programs, was $78.6 billion. Only the overall figure is public and more specific spending details are classified.

Intelligence budgets increased after the September 11, 2001, attacks but now could face cuts along with other areas in the government.

U.S. intelligence sharing with foreign partners also increased after the September 11 attacks as the United States pursued al Qaeda and other extremist groups.

(Reporting By Tabassum Zakaria; Editing by Bill Trott)

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