WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s secret intelligence fund dropped in fiscal 2019, the first time in three years the black budget did not increase year over year.

The total Military Intelligence Program, or MIP, budget for FY19, including the base budget and overseas contingency operations account, was $21.5 billion, the Pentagon revealed Thursday.

MIP funding went as high as $27 billion in FY10, but by FY15 it hit a low point for the decade at $16.6 billion, according to numbers maintained by Avascent Analytics.

But starting in FY16, the MIP had three straight years of growth, going from $17.7 billion in FY16, to $18.5 billion in FY17 and $22.1 billion in FY18.

According to a 2018 Congressional Research Service report, MIP funds “defense intelligence activities intended to support operational and tactical level intelligence priorities supporting defense operations." Among other uses, these dollars can be spent to facilitate the dissemination of information that relates to a foreign country or political group, and covert or clandestine activities against political and military groups or individuals.

Part of the MIP funding went to U.S. Special Operations Command as it pursued “several current acquisition efforts focused on outfitting aircraft — both manned and unmanned, fixed and rotary wing — with advanced ISR and data storage capabilities that will work in multiple environments,” according to CRS.

In a two-paragraph statement announcing the FY19 number, the Pentagon noted that the funding “is aligned to support the National Defense Strategy.” That may be an indication that MIP was cut slightly as funds were redirected from the long-running conflicts in the Middle East toward other priorities meant to combat China and Russia.

It is possible the MIP will grow in the coming year, as the Pentagon had requested $22.95 billion for FY20.

Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.

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