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The American middle-class may be strapped but the secret sectors of the U.S. government are flush. U.S.  military intelligence spending increased 18 percent in the past two years, continuing a trend that began late in the Obama administration.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) dropped the numbers yesterday, and they show secret government agencies are doing especially well under President Trump.  The increase from $19.2 billion in 2017 to $22.1 billion in 2018 outstrips the growth of Pentagon spending as a whole and the growth of civilian spy agencies.

The last time the military intelligence budget grew so fast was 2007-2010 when the U.S. was conducting “surge” operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.  But as President Obama withdrew U.S. forces from both war theaters, military intelligence spending dropped steadily for five years.

Now military intelligence is growing again. One driving facto is boots on the ground. President Trump has, without much fanfare (or announced strategy) expanded the military presence in the Middle East. According to Micah Zenko, fellow at Chatham House, a British government think tank,  the United States had 40,517 U.S. troops in the Middle East in June 2017. By November 2017, there were 54,180. This invisible surge has gotten little attention from a distracted and distressed Washington press corps.

So is the U.S. military intelligence leading us back into Iraq and Afghanistan? Building up in Syria? Helping the Saudis purse their starvation war in Yemen? In our peculiar form of national security double government, we the citizens, are not entitled to answers.

The ODNI  only releases spending totals for military intelligence. The details about what various agencies (such as Defense Intelligence Agency and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency) receive is considered secret. So is where did the $3 billillion dollars in additional spending go?

I asked Steve Aftergood, analyst for the Federation of American Scientists, what the money is paying for?   His best guess: special operations.

It’s a good question, and the answer is not obvious. Much of military intelligence is focused on supporting combat operations. But the US military is doing a lot outside of active combat zones. Special operations forces are now said to be deployed in 90 countries around the world, up from “80 plus” the year before. That likely entails increased intelligence demand. There is even an intelligence dimension to the unfolding encounter with immigrants approaching the border. Not to mention cyber threats, weapons proliferation, and more. So there’s a lot going on.

That’s for sure. The White House in full campaign mode has fallen silent about the Jamal Khashoggi affair. But the aftermath of the apparent assassination continues to destabilize the U.S.-Saudi relationship, which is the central column of the U.S. military presence in the region.

While U.S. builds up its military intelligence capabilities,  the ground underneath the alliance is shifting in ways no one can predict.  Turkey is refusing to share evidence with the Saudis until they reveal the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s body and extradite the  18 suspects detained in Saudi Arabia. Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancée is asking Trump to reveal “truth.”

But truth, like the details of military intelligence spending, is hard to come by in Washington.