The Black Budget: The Crossroads of (Un)Constitutional Appropriations and Reporting

“The $52.6 billion “black budget” for fiscal 2013, obtained by The Washington Post from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, maps a bureaucratic and operational landscape that has never been subject to public scrutiny. Although the government has annually released its overall level of intelligence spending since 2007, it has not divulged how it uses the money or how it performs against the goals set by the president and Congress.” ~Barton Gellman and Greg Miller

By Michele Ferri and Jonathan Lurie

Table of Contents

I. The Strengths and Weaknesses of the Power of the Purse
II. What is the Black Budget?
III. The Origins of the Black Budget
A. Introducing the 1947 National Security Act
B. Introducing the 1949 CIA Act
C. Private Contractor Reporting Requirements
D. Action Increasing Government Oversight of the Black Budget
IV. The Black Budget and the Constitution–Is it Legal?
V. About Us


Even in just the last few days, there have been concerns that the bill that ended the recent government shutdown included provisions allowing the Executive branch to fund covert action without Congressional oversight or going through the usual Congressional oversight committees. The provision is currently a subject of debate, with a potential amendment to remove the exception opposed by some in Congress. (see Kelly, Erin, Spending Bill Limited Congress’ Oversight of Secret Intelligence Activities, Senators Say, available at As it stands, this bill waives the later discussed (already very limited) reporting and appropriation requirements of the National Security Act. It’s not hard to see why it has raised more than a few eyebrows. Steps to change the language of the waiver were reportedly blocked in Congress. (see Nelson, Steven, Provision in Shutdown-Ending Bill Stokes Fear of Oversight-Free Intelligence Spending, available at

With such a recent move towards limiting Congress, and the people’s, oversight in a situation already sparse on oversight, appropriations compliance, and reporting compliance. The time has never been better to ask, what is the Black Budget? How did it come to be? How does it work and, perhaps most importantly, how and why is it considered legal and constitutional?

Read Here: The Black Budget: The Crossroads of (Un)Constitutional Appropriations and Reporting

Solari Special Reports on the Legal Framework for US Federal Finances

The Appropriations Clause: A History of the Constitution’s (As of Yet) Underused Clause

The US Statutes Creating Modern Constitutional Financial Management and Reporting Requirements and the Governments Failure to Follow Them

Related Sites

Enforce the Constitution

The Missing Money

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