US Defense Cuts Intelligence

US Defense Cuts Intelligence
Wednesday, October 10, 2012 - 8:30am

(CNN) -- Looming across-the-board cuts to the intelligence community budget will be devastating if Congress fails to act, the nation's top intelligence officer warns.

"If sequestration is allowed to happen, it will be disastrous for intelligence," Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a group of intel officers and contractors gathered at a conference in Orlando, Florida, Tuesday.

Clapper said every major intelligence program is "in jeopardy of being wounded" because the budget deal Congress passed last year does not allow the intelligence community any flexibility to prioritize needs.

"The current arrangement pre-supposes that everything we do in intelligence is of equal import and we all know that's not the case," Clapper added.

The scheduled cuts -- approximately 10% of the current budgets -- would impact programs as well as personnel.

As part of an agreement that allowed President Barack Obama to raise the debt ceiling last year, a congressional "super committee" was tasked to find more than a trillion dollars in government savings over the next decade, but no solution was reached.

If Obama and Congress cannot come to agreement on where the cuts should come from, $1 trillion would automatically be axed from the federal government's budget. The defense budget will be axed by $500 billion over the next decade. The automatic cuts, which are set to go into effect January 2, are referred to as sequestration.

Letitia Long, director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, referred to the upcoming cuts as a "salami slice" that would leave the intelligence community with no ability to manage risk. "There's no flexibility to say, 'I want to take all of it one area and therefore stop doing what my lowest priority might be,'" she explained.

Clapper said the nation is facing the most diverse set of threats he has seen in his nearly 50-year career and called on Congress to "avert this train wreck" when it returns to Washington for a lame duck session after the November elections.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in August the impending cuts "would do real damage to our security, our troops and their families, and our military's ability to protect the nation."

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