WASHINGTON—Classified military spending has reached its highest level since 1988, near the end of the Cold War, a new independent analysis has found.
Classified, or "black," programs now appear to account for about $30.1 billion, or 19 percent, of the acquisition money the Defense Department is requesting for fiscal year 2007, according to Steven M. Kosiak, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, an independent policy-research organization.
The figure is more than double the amount the Pentagon requested in 1995, when classified military acquisition spending reached a post-Cold War low. It apparently reflects an increase in intelligence funding and a surge in new weapons research and procurement since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"In terms of where the money is actually going, it's quite speculative. But clearly a lot of space programs, new satellites are funded through this, and other surveillance systems such as UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), things like that," Kosiak said.
His figures were based on publicly available Defense Department budget documents.
The Air Force controls more than 75 percent of the Defense Department's classified acquisition money, the largest share of any service.
Some effective weapons have been developed through top-secret programs, most notably the U-2 and SR-71 spy planes, which were produced in the 1960s to spy on the Soviet Union. The F-117 stealth fighter and B-2 stealth bomber also were produced through highly classified programs.
Boondoggles include the Navy's A-12 attack plane, which was canceled in 1991 because of technical problems and cost overruns.
Critics warn that classified programs result in less congressional oversight and lend themselves to waste and abuse of government money.
The Pentagon didn't respond to requests for comment.
Most people can accept the need for secret budgets for secret military projects, but "it's the growth of the black budget that people find troubling," said Chris Hellman, the director of the Project on Military Spending Oversight at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, a nonprofit organization that seeks the reduction and eventual elimination of nuclear weapons.
The increase in spending on classified programs is part of an overall increase in secrecy under President Bush, especially since the 2001 terrorist attacks, said Steven Aftergood, the director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, which promotes humanitarian uses of science and technology.
"I think security is being used as a pretext for greater secrecy across the board." Aftergood said.
Classified budgets may have made sense during the Cold War against the Soviet Union, but they're less understandable today, he said.
"The Soviet Union had a global intelligence network and they also had a massive industrial base with which to exploit even scraps of technological intelligence," Aftergood said. But that's not the case with al-Qaida, he said.
"They have neither a global intelligence service nor a sophisticated industrial base, which would allow them to duplicate or defeat advanced U.S. weapons," Aftergood said. "So, the very logic of black budgeting has less relevance in the war on terrorism than it did during the Cold War, and yet it's growing."
(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
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