WASHINGTON -- Defying stern warnings from the Clinton administration, Democrats in Congress are preparing to cut more than $1 billion from a White House intelligence budget request.
The expected cuts would leave the nation's intelligence agencies with only about as much money for next year as they were given by Congress this year. President Clinton had asked for an increase that would have outpaced inflation, contending that the national security requirements in the post-Cold War era justified the steeper rise.
The Democratic lawmakers have generally agreed that intelligence programs provide cost-effective insurance against surprises in an unpredictable world. But in turning aside Mr. Clinton's request, they have argued that the intelligence agencies must share some of the budget-cutting burden being borne by the military.
While the size of the nation's vast intelligence budget remains an official secret, administration and congressional officials say the White House request for an increase next year would bring it to well over $28 billion.
The cuts being endorsed by influential Democratic lawmakers would slash at least $500 million from each of the two proposed budgets that make up the overall intelligence program, reducing the overall White House proposal by about 4 percent.
A clear indicator of that congressional sentiment came yesterday, government officials said, when the House Intelligence Committee voted to cut about $1.2 billion from the White House request on the two budgets -- the National Foreign Intelligence Budget, which provides for the operations of the Central Intelligence Agency and other spy agencies, and the budget for Tactical Intelligence and Related Activities, which are run primarily by the military.
The final budgets voted on by Congress remain to be shaped by four more congressional committees, which are not due to vote on the issue until next month at the earliest.
But the Senate Intelligence Committee is also on track to cut the administration request, and the House and Senate appropriations committees are likely to recommend even deeper cuts.
The Democratic-led defiance comes despite strong warnings from R. James Woolsey, who as director of Central Intelligence has served as chief lobbyist for the administration's request.