See for Yourself: The Pentagon’s $51 Billion ‘Black’ Budget

Gee while the Republicons are waging an austerity war against women, children and the poor why don’t we take a look at what’s going on in the Pentagons black budget for unnecessary, wasteful spending? Bet if they were honest about the spending, Americans would agree that billions of dollars should be cut and deferred back into the general budget to save desperately needed programs from being eliminated. Thanks goes to kevin for another great find!


The military keeps a lot of little things secret. It could be the exact range of a jammer, sensitive missile data or the timing of a raid. But the larger context — that jammers and missiles exist, or that our forces conduct raids — is unclassified and even listed in the Pentagon’s budget for all to see.

These secrets are different. Their names are obscured by code words, or simply listed as “classified programs.” But with a little digging, we can get a (limited) sense of how much money is being spent on the U.S. government’s most secret military projects. In fact, you can take a look for yourself. We’ve put together this spreadsheet with the latest information. Feel free to add, subtract and edit it — kind of like a classified cash wiki.

This year, the military’s black budget appears to be a little over $51 billion, down from the $56 billion which held steady for the last two years, not including inflation. The reductions are also not really a surprise considering the cuts happening nearly everywhere else.

Because it’s not easy saying we have the complete number. The Pentagon likes to play a little hide and seek with its black budget. Projects with code names like the Navy’s “RETRACT JUNIPER” and “LINK PLUMERIA” are simple enough to find in the research development, testing and evaluation budget (.pdf). As are many of the Army’s “TRACTOR” projects: “TRACTOR NAIL,” “TRACTOR CAGE,” and so on. But then comes along a project like “TRACTOR DESK” hiding in one of the Army’s eight research budget documents, while others find their way to the operations and maintenance and procurement budgets.


These projects are also where to go when searching for what’s getting cut. Something called the “Classified Program USD(P),” formerly valued around a respectable $100 million, had its budget reduced to zero. “TRACTOR JUTE” is on life support and “COBRA JUDY” had the sting taken out of it.

Most other projects saw lesser cuts, however, and others like “RETRACT MAPLE” even saw minor gains. This is also while the researcher at Darpa only received a slight trim.

The Pentagon budget also sheds light on the shadowy world of special operations forces and their “new normal” requirements in Afghanistan “and other locations” like the Horn of Africa. According to SOCOM’s operation and maintenance budget, an estimated 11,500 special forces personnel are expected to be in Afghanistan next year, a drop from the 12,321 (or so) commandos financed for this year. SOCOM is also getting a $796 million shave, but some budget wizardry should make up the difference. According to the budget, $889 million was shuffled from SOCOM’s overseas spending to “baseline” budgets with titles like “contract services” and “contractor logistics support.”
Yet, “The overall amount of troops and missions within [Afghanistan] are projected to increase,” it says. This means the special forces will “require additional resources to reposition personnel and equipment as well as increase the number of missions executed,” says the report (.pdf).

Though to put it in perspective, the Pentagon is still spending more on classified projects than most nations spend on their entire military forces in year. And that’s just the beginning. The budget for the Military Intelligence Program was released this week, adding another $19.2 billion — down from a record $27 billion in 2010. That also doesn’t include the budget for the National Intelligence Program, which oversees spy agencies like the CIA. Their budget hasn’t been released yet but prior budgets have shown it to hover in the $50 billion range. So we could be talking about $120 billion or more in black accounts.

There’s also a slight problem. The Pentagon has another “classified” budget line with the money to show for it, but the dollar-amounts don’t match the individual projects. In other words, the exact amount the Pentagon spends on its black projects may, in fact, be a mystery even to itself.


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