The US Intelligence Community Is Bigger Than Ever, but Is It Worth It?

The U.S. spends nearly $1 trillion on national security programs and agencies annually, more than any other nation in the world. Yet despite this enormous investment, there is not enough evidence to show the public that these programs are keeping Americans any safer — especially in the intelligence community.

Excessive government secrecy prohibits the public and oversight agencies alike from determining whether our expensive intelligence enterprise is worth the investment.

The United States intelligence community is comprised of 17 federal agencies assigned an array of missions relating to national defense, foreign relations, homeland security and law enforcement. These agencies form just the foundation of a sprawling enterprise that incorporates intelligence and non-intelligence components of many other federal agencies, state and local police, including fire and emergency response, international government partners, as well as private companies and organizations.

These entities connect through an array of information sharing platforms and portals, including the National Counterterrorism Center, the Joint Counterterrorism Assessment Team, 71 FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces, 56 Field Intelligence Groups, and 78 state and local intelligence fusion centers, which can incorporate military and private sector participants. Information collected by any of them can be distributed through official information sharing systems like the Defense Department’s Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet; the U.S. Navy’s Law Enforcement Information Exchange, or LInX; the Department of Homeland Security Information Network, or HSIN; the Director of National Intelligence’s Information Sharing Environment, or ISE; and the FBI’s eGuardian, National Data Exchange, or N-DEx; National Crime Information Center, or NCIC; and Law Enforcement Online, or LEO, among others.

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