Budgets cuts and intensification at the general intelligence and security service of the Netherlands (AIVD)
The consequences of budgetary turbulence, 2012-2015
We have conducted an investigation into the changes made to the AIVD’s budget over the past few years. In 2012, the Cabinet ordered budget cuts of €68 million to be made at the AIVD, equating to one third of the service’s total budget. One year later, the scale of those savings was reduced by half. Subsequently, in 2014 and 2015, the service was actually awarded a budget increase totalling €65 million due to the increased threat level. How did the AIVD handle these changes, which occurred in rapid succession?
In 2012, the second Rutte Cabinet ordered drastic cuts to the AIVD’s budget and, shortly thereafter, decided to increase the service’s budget once again (as part of a process known as ‘intensification’). Throughout this period, the Cabinet failed to meet the requirements of responsible budget cuts and reforms. When taking decisions on budgetary matters, the Cabinet did not take sufficient account of the specific dynamics that, in a knowledge-intensive organization such as the AIVD, are inextricably linked to staffing levels and the use of information technology.
The rapid succession of changes made to the AIVD’s budget meant that the service first had to reorganize in order to scale back its activities and then, almost immediately afterwards, had to expand a number of its activities once again in order to meet new requirements. These developments have left deep scars within the organization. The consequences of this will be felt for years to come and they represent a tangible risk in terms of the desired standard of the service’s operations. This is because the measures taken by the AIVD in order to implement the budget cuts were primarily directed at the short term, and meant that longer-term planning was de-prioritized. The longer-term outlook has not (yet) been sufficiently safeguarded as the intensification process takes shape. The Cabinet’s policy towards the AIVD has failed to take account of the time and technology required to develop and maintain the level of access to information it needs at its disposal.
We have advised the Cabinet to formulate an integrated, long-term vision for the operation and performance of the security and information services and national security structures. The foresight study that the AIVD initiated following the budget cuts represented a basis for such a vision; however, this study was terminated prematurely when the process of intensification began. It is important that such a process of strategic planning is now completed and followed through in the form of a broadly based vision that provides a framework for the future. This applies not only to the AIVD but also to the MIVD (Military Intelligence and Security Service of the Netherlands).
For the AIVD, a long-term vision document relating to its future role needs to clarify the following points:
- the activities that the organization undertakes in order to achieve these results;
- the results achieved by the organization (for example in terms of its intelligence position and ‑output);
- the resources that the service has at its disposal to achieve these results in terms of people, (financial) resources and (special) powers.
This information is crucial because the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations and the AIVD need to be able to provide information to the House of Representatives so that the latter can form a substantiated opinion about the relationship between the service’s policy objectives, performance and (financial) resources. Since this information involves official secrets, the House of Representatives must also play its part if it is to arrive at a thoroughly reasoned assessment. Specifically, the House of Representatives needs to create an arena that enables political action on and control over these matters.
The Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations responded to our investigation on 12 May 2015, and his position is also that of the Prime Minister. He generally endorses our conclusions and accepts our recommendations. The Cabinet will therefore draw up an integrated, long-term vision for the operation and performance of the security services and focus more attention to the relationship between policy objectives, performance and (financial) resources.