By Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government's total spending on intelligence activities fell in 2012, the second year in a row of declines after years of soaring security spending since the September 11 attacks in 2001.
The Office of Director of National Intelligence, the top U.S. intelligence authority, announced on Tuesday that total funding appropriated for the National Intelligence Program, covering activities of the CIA and high-tech spy agencies such as the National Reconnaissance Office, was $53.9 billion in Fiscal Year 2012, which ended on September 30.
That was down from the $54.6 billion appropriated during Fiscal Year 2011, according to government officials and figures published by the private Federation of American Scientists.
Also on Tuesday, the Pentagon announced that funding appropriated for the separate Military Intelligence Program during Fiscal 2012 totaled $21.5 billion. According to the Federation of American Scientists, that compares with $24 billion appropriated for military intelligence in Fiscal 2011.
The total appropriations in Fiscal 2012 for both the national and military intelligence programs was $75.4 billion. This compares to the Fiscal 2011 total of $78.6 billion.
Steven Aftergood, a secrecy expert with the scientists' federation, said that the figure for the National Intelligence Program "represents the first drop" in that program "in many years." But when that figure is combined with military intelligence spending, the overall total has declined for two years, he said.
"Intelligence spending skyrocketed after 9/11, more than doubling," Aftergood said. "It looks like we are now seeing it level off, though it is still at historically high levels."
Some fall-off in intelligence spending had been expected. In a speech a year ago, the current national intelligence director, James Clapper, indicated that 2013 would likely signal the beginning of a decline in spy spending.
"We've experienced 10 years of growth - actually a fairly easy proposition, when you think about it, for the intelligence community, because every year all they had to do was hand out more money and more people," Clapper said in that speech.
The Intelligence Director's office said Tuesday it would not disclose further details of National Intelligence Program spending, citing potential harm to U.S. national security.
According to declassified documents posted on the website of the Federation of American Scientists, appropriations requests for two of the biggest technical spy agencies, the National Reconnaissance Office, which builds and operates spy satellites, and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which analyzes intelligence imagery, are considered as part of the National Intelligence program. (Editing by Warren Strobel and Claudia Parsons)