Mike German reports: The annual intelligence budget exceeds $70 billion per year, but that figure represents just a small portion of what the U.S. spends on national defense and homeland security. In a recent interview, Ben Friedman of the Cato Institute does the math:
The nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight and the Columbia Journalism Review back up Friedman’s estimate that the U.S. now spends roughly $1 trillion a year for national security. This figure dwarfs the combined defense budgets of all possible contenders, combined.
Friedman argues that the threats we face today don’t justify such profligate spending. Protected by oceans and bordered by friendly nations, there’s little risk of a foreign invasion. Deaths from wars and other political violence abroad have sharply decreased as well. Terrorism and violent crime in the U.S. are at historically low levels.
Yet despite the relative safety our nation enjoys and the enormous effort and expense dedicated toward strengthening U.S. security, Americans feel less safe than any time since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. So the question isn’t just whether our national security measures are necessary, but whether they work. Do our intelligence agencies actually improve U.S. security and give policy makers the best available information to make wise policy decisions?
Unfortunately, the excessive secrecy shrouding intelligence activities means Americans have little public information from which to evaluate whether the intelligence enterprise is worth the investment. Friedman explains how too much secrecy undermines effective policy making, and makes government “stupid:” [Continue reading…]