Beltway Braces for a Very Cratchit Christmas

Matt Barganier, November 30, 2011

Today’s Washington Post informs us that “for the holidays, the spies say they’ll scrimp.”

[W]ith budget cuts looming, party plans are being pared back for the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA. …

Under then-director Leon E. Panetta last year, the CIA brought in shipments of California wine, and served fried oysters, grilled shrimp and quesadillas. His predecessor, Michael V. Hayden, made sure there were musicians playing Irish music while stations set up inside the agency’s cavernous headquarters hallway served drinks and hors d’oeuvres. …

But the CIA and DNI both acknowledged this week that the events this time around will be smaller, cheaper and off-limits to the press. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said the holiday austerity reflects the nation’s financial condition.

“Scaling back our holiday celebrations is just another small example of our commitment to making sure that we continue to make wise fiscal decisions across the board,” Clapper said in a prepared statement.

The measures come at a time when the Obama administration is also probably eager to avoid any appearance of opulence amid the sour economy and soaring national debt.

Elsewhere in the Post, though, we read that while “home prices continue to fall, D.C. bucks trend.” And — oops! — I left out the last graf of that other story:

Indeed, the party savings are probably more meaningful symbolically than financially. A U.S. official said the annual DNI party typically cost about $50,000, or roughly the cost of a single Hellfire missile, and a fraction of the $54 billion spy budget this year.

(Second link via David Friedman.)

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