Democratic Senators Jay Rockefeller and Ron Wyden raised eyebrows Wednesday when they denounced during an open session of Congress what Rockefeller described as a "major funding acquisition program that I believe is totally unjustified and very wasteful and dangerous to national security." More J-Rock, from the Congressional Record:
Because of the highly classified nature of the programs contained in the national intelligence budget, I cannot talk about them on the floor. But the Senate has voted for the past 2 years to terminate the program of which I speak, only to be overruled in the appropriations conference. The intelligence authorization conference report that I expect to be before the Senate later today fully authorizes funding for this unjustified and stunningly expensive acquisition.
My decision is shared by a number of my colleagues. Speaking for myself, if we are asked to fund this particular program next year, I will seriously consider and probably will ask the Senate to go into closed session so the Senators can understand, fully debate, become informed upon, and then vote on termination of this very wasteful acquisition program. […]
WYDEN: The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has raised concerns about the need and costs of this program for the past 4 years and sought to cancel this program in each of the past 2 years. This has not been a political issue, a Democratic or Republican issue, nor should it be. The members of the Senate committee have supported these efforts in a nonpartisan way with unanimous votes each time.
Numerous independent reviews have concluded that the program does not fulfill a major intelligence gap or shortfall, and the original justification for developing this technology has eroded in importance due to the changed practices and capabilities of our adversaries. There are a number of other programs in existence and in development whose capabilities can match those envisioned for this program at far less cost and technological risk. Like almost all other acquisition programs of its size, initial budget estimates have drastically underestimated the true costs of this acquisition and independent cost estimates have shown that this program will exceed its proposed budgets by enormous amounts of money. The Senate Intelligence Committee has also in the past expressed its concern about how this program was to be awarded to the prime contractor.
I wish more of my colleagues knew of the details of this program and understood why we are so convinced that it should be canceled.
So what is this alleged boondoggle? The Chicago Sun-Times paraphrases "intelligence experts" as saying the program "was almost certainly a spy satellite system." Rush Limbaugh, meanwhile, identifies the real villain as "a cabal of left-wing senators taking it upon themselves to draw attention to some secret program."