A $471 million anomaly?
The graph above, from FedSpending.org, shows the total value of contracts for which the Defense Intelligence Agency was the funding agency (for a definition, see here) from 2000 through 2007 (for 2007, only partial data is available). In 2005, the total value of contracts is $471 million; every other year, the total ranges from a low of $2.5 million in 2002 to a high of $19 million in 2006. See for yourself, and note that the numbers from the federal government are the same.
The Defense Intelligence Agency is one of the Pentagon agencies that reduced transparency by asking for — and receiving — permission to withhold from USASpending.gov categories of intelligence contracting data that were previously disclosed, as Secrecy News reports.
Okay, but where is the old data that had been disclosed? Are we to believe that in 2002, the year after Sept. 11, Defense Intelligence Agency contracts declined from $8.8 million to $2.6 million?
I don’t mean to criticize the databases themselves — the folks over at OMB Watch have done a masterful job building FedSpending.org–an online compendium of contracts and grants from the year 2000 forward. The federal government provides its own version of the same data, at USASpending.gov, which is slightly more up to date though lacks a lot of the useful features and enhancements (the mapping in particular) of FedSpending.org. Both sites provide simple, user-friendly, searchable interfaces that let you see how much money Lockheed Martin or Boeing has gotten over the years. The question is whether the agencies that provide the data are doing so accurately.
It’s possible that there’s some other explanation for the anomaly — perhaps the bulk of Defense Intelligence Agency contracts were paid out of the budgets of other agencies and show up elsewhere. I’ll call DIA and see what they say.
For an interesting take on why intelligence agencies might want to keep their nonclassified contracts secret, see this post from the Spy Who Billed Me.