“To ensure that intelligence services act in accordance with the rule of law while remaining operationally effective, the procedures, principles, and laws governing intelligence budget cycles have to strike a careful balance between transparency and confidentiality.”
ABOUT THE INTELLIGENCE BUDGET CYCLE
The intelligence budget cycle (IBC) describes the process through which funds (budgets) for the operation of intelligence services are formed, approved, implemented (spent), and reviewed (controlled). In Euro-Atlantic countries, the IBC generally corresponds to the standard budget cycles for government agencies in that it is normally guided by the same legal principles, laws, and procedures. As with the budget cycles of other government agencies, IBCs are subject to various internal and external oversight and control measures, most notably by parliament and national audit institutions. Given the clandestine nature of the work of intelligence agencies, Euro- Atlantic countries have sought to develop processes and procedures to balance the need for budgetary transparency with the need to maintain operational secrecy. In practice, this means that while governments sometimes publish the total budgets of intelligence agencies, they do not, as with other government bodies, provide details of individual budget lines.
With the above in mind – and to ensure that intelligence services act in accordance with the rule of law while remaining operationally effective – the procedures, principles, and laws governing IBCs have to strike a careful balance between transparency and confidentiality. Achieving this balance is all the more important for intelligence services undergoing reform, particularly in transition countries, where historically confidentiality has often come at the cost of transparency.
ABOUT THE THEMATIC BRIEF
This Thematic Brief explores the means through which four Euro- Atlantic countries – namely France, Germany, Poland, and the United Kingdom – have sought to strike such a balance. It is divided into six sections. The first provides a brief overview of the intelligence agencies active in France, Germany, Poland, and the United Kingdom, along with their funding mechanisms. The second explores the role of public finance principles and intelligence tasking in guiding the formation of intelligence budgets. The subsequent sections examine the four stages of the IBC: budget formation (Section 3); approval (Section 4); implementation (expenditure) (Section 5); and review (Section 6). Each of these sections outline corresponding oversight measures, as well as the institutions responsible for implementing these. The Brief concludes with a set of recommendations on how to increase the transparency, efficiency, and oversight of IBCs.