WASHINGTON - Congress has drastically trimmed the budget for U.S. spies and satellites for 2013, though not quite as deeply as the White House wanted.
In one of the last votes of the year, House lawmakers voted Monday 373-29 in favor of a Senate-passed bill to slightly boost the president's $72 billion budget request for intelligence agencies including the CIA, adding extra cash for the counterterrorism fight against al-Qaida, and the counterintelligence fight against foreign governments trying to spy on the U.S.
That's down sharply from roughly $80 billion in 2012, which marked the peak of intelligence spending since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
"The bill holds personnel levels, one of the biggest cost drivers, generally at last year's levels," said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich. "Even so, the bill adds a limited number of new personnel positions for select, high-priority positions, such as FBI surveillance officers to keep watch on terrorists."
The House Intelligence Committee's ranking member, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., said the bill "invests in personnel and programs that are working and cuts things that aren't."
The bill was stripped of several measures meant to block the leaking of classified information, including a provision that would have limited which government officials could brief journalists on intelligence. The measures had been drafted after lawmakers objected to a series of news stories that anonymously quoted senior administration sources describing sensitive intelligence programs, such as the process by which targets are chosen for lethal drone strikes overseas.