May 19, 2006

Pentagon secret spending said at post-Cold War high

By Jim Wolf

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon's spending on secret
programs has hit its highest point since the end of the Cold
War, a Washington-based research group said in a report
released this week.

Classified programs appear to account for about $30.1
billion, or 19 percent, of the acquisition funds sought in the
Defense Department budget for fiscal 2007, according to the
report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment.

In real terms, the 2007 request was for more classified
spending than in any defense budget since 1988, near the Cold
War's end, when the Pentagon received an inflation-adjusted
$29.4 billion for such projects, it said.

Classifying Pentagon programs means they get less oversight
by Congress, watchdog groups and the media.

The record of such programs has been mixed, said Steven
Kosiak, the report's author, noting that the F-117 "Stealth"
fighter jet and the radar-evading B-2 bomber were among the

But reduced oversight has contributed to failures like the
U.S. Navy's A-12 attack aircraft, canceled in 1991, Kosiak

Secret programs also have tended to spawn "fringe science"
-- like antimatter weapons, psychics and telepathy -- because
they were protected from outside scrutiny, said Sharon
Weinberger, author of "Imaginary Weapons: A Journey through the
Pentagon's Scientific Underworld."

She contends that the Defense Department, citing a need for
secrecy to protect national security, is in effect shielding
"bad science" from peer review at a net loss to taxpayers.

In his study, Kosiak said classified funding sought for
Pentagon purchases had more than doubled in real terms since
fiscal 1995, when it reached a post-Cold War low.

Since 1995, funding for classified acquisition programs has
grown at a faster rate than funding for acquisition programs
overall -- up 64 percent in real terms, the report said.

The Air Force's fiscal 2007 budget request contained the
biggest share of the Pentagon's classified acquisition funding
-- more than three-quarters of the total.

Classified programs account for about 44 percent, or $14.1
billion, of the Air Force's procurement request and 39 percent,
or $9.6 billion, of its research and development request,
Kosiak said, citing Pentagon budget documents.