Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

July 19, 2010

Top Secret America – Washington Post Investigation Unveiled

Filed under: Security Contracting — by Jessica Herrera-Flanigan on July 19, 2010

The Washington Post unveiled this morning its extensive two-year  investigation, “Top Secret America,” into what it describes as the “national security buildup in the United States after the September 11, 2001, attacks.”   The investigation includes a series of articles and online database that maps out connections, companies, and localities for much of the military, homeland security, and intelligence contracting that has occurred in the past nine years.  Chris Bellavita, as some of you might recall, noted the series in a Friday blog post American Secrets and the Washington Post last week.

It is a mammoth project that has been rumored and discussed for some time, with government officials given the opportunity to review a few months ago.  The project has raised a lot of eyebrows, with  the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, according to Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic, sending out a memorandum to IC community public affairs officers a few weeks ago.  Foreign Policy also reported on Friday that the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Bureau sent out a notice last week to the 14,574 people at the State Department warning employees not to talk to the press about the investigation.

The first article in the series, A Hidden World, Growing Beyond Control, written by Dana Priest and William Arkin, was published today.  The story focuses on what the government has done on the top secret front, including evaluating budgets, personnel, and program numbers.  Here are some interesting tidbits gleamed from today’s article:

  • There are 45 organizations (with 1,271 sub-units) engaged in top-secret work.
  • There are 1,931 companies engaged in top-secret work for the government.
  • There are approximately 854,000 individuals that hold top-secret security clearances.
  • In DC, there are 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work under construction (or build since 9/11).
  • There are more than 50,000 intelligence reports published each year.
  • At least 20 percent of counterterrorism organizations were established or recreated post-9/11.
  • The U.S. intelligence budget for last year was $75 billion (though that is only “public” number and does not include activities that might fit in to the larger “top secret” category).

The project also includes on a map 2,164 government work locations and 6,944 company work locations.  On a different graphic, it takes the 45 government organizations and breaks down who does the most work by category (e.g. intelligence, homeland security, military, etc), as well as which agency works with the most companies.  The project also includes a company database where readers can get overview information for the companies engaged in top-secret workforce.

Again, this is a tremendous project that will likely get a lot of attention from the Administration, Congress, and the contracting community.  The debate that will ensue after the investigation will likely focus on whether the post-9/11 investment in security has made the nation more secure.

While it focuses on contractors and government, the project doesn’t explore (at least does not appear to do so) the funding that went to state and local officials for security officials. That would have been an interesting add-on, especially given the continuing debate on the Hill on a number of grants programs.