by ROBERT BECKHUSEN and NOAH SHACHTMAN
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.