Lawmakers Block Pentagon Spy Plan

The Defense Department's plan to beef up its spy operation has hit a roadblock on Capitol Hill.

The Pentagon’s plan to expand its spy service isn’t going unnoticed on Capitol Hill these days.

The Senate is opposing a Defense Department effort to double the number of spies it sends overseas, questioning whether the program’s poor performance in the past justifies a funding increase, The Washington Post is reporting.

According to the Post:

A military spending bill approved by the Senate last week contains language barring the Pentagon from using funds to expand its espionage ranks until it has provided more details on what the program will cost and how the extra spies would be used.

The measure offers a harsh critique of the Pentagon’s espionage record, saying that the Defense Department “needs to demonstrate that it can improve the management of clandestine [human intelligence] before undertaking any further expansion.”

The action is a setback for the Pentagon’s main spy service, the Defense Intelligence Agency, which has embarked on a five-year plan to assemble an espionage network overseas that is more closely modeled on the CIA and would rival that agency in size.

Critics say the Pentagon has no business building up its spy game, especially when the nation’s financial woes threaten to gut the Pentagon with across-the-board spending cuts.

A Senate included a provision in the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act that blocks DIA from going beyond the number of human intelligence officers the agency had in place last April. It requires the Pentagon to produce “an independent estimate of the costs” of the new clandestine service, as well as a blueprint for where and when the newly hired spies would be deployed, the Washington Post reports.

The measure cites a litany of problems with existing Pentagon intelligence efforts, including “poor or non-existent career management” for operatives who have been trained but were given “unproductive” assignments overseas or were often transferred back to regular military units.

To be fair though, the CIA has had its share of setbacks over the years. In December 2009, a Jordanian triple agent working for al Qaeda managed to infiltrate a CIA outpost in Afghanistan where he detonated a bomb and killed seven agents.

The DIA has about 500 undercover operatives engaged in spying work overseas; the Pentagon wants to expand that to as many as 1,000 by 2018, according to the Washington Post. The new operatives would be trained by the CIA and coordinate their assignments with CIA station chiefs overseas but remain under DoD control.