Figures released by the government Thursday show $27 billion goes to military intelligence and $53.1 billion covers the CIA and some of the other 16 intelligence agencies.
Steven Aftergood, a secrecy specialist at the Federation of American Scientists, says it is "the most complete disclosure we have ever had."
The $80 billion exceeds the $51 billion spent on the State Department and foreign aid programs in 2010. But it's only a tenth of the $814 billion economic stimulus program passed by Congress last year.
The new director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said during his Senate confirmation hearing that it was time to tell the American public the total cost of intelligence.
The last director of national intelligence, retired Admiral Dennis Blair, had revealed in congressional testimony that the 2009 figure was around $75 billion. Clapper said he has convinced Defense Secretary Robert Gates to make it standard practice to release the actual figure.
The military budget goes to places like Army and Navy intelligence and the Defense Intelligence Agency, while some organizations, such as the National Security Agency and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, get funding from both budgets, Aftergood says.
The figures drew an immediate pledge to slash intelligence spending from Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat. She said intelligence spending had "blossomed to an unacceptable level in the past decade," doubling since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Given the U.S. financial situation, "cuts will be necessary," Feinstein said. She did not indicate what programs she would target, but she noted that this year's $27 billion military budget includes supplemental funding for counterterrorism and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Feinstein has spoken out in hearings this year about the high cost of satellite intelligence. While most figures for such programs are classified, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency awarded roughly $7 billion in contracts to two commercial satellite providers this year.
The increased satellite surveillance has been credited with providing the information needed for more accurate CIA Predator drone strikes against militants in the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan, and in aiding special operations strikes against militants in Afghanistan, as well as sites in Africa.