When U.S. forces do less, intelligence has to do more. The troops’ return from overseas moves them further from trouble spots. Intelligence provides the warning time to prepare for the next potential conflict.

Spending more on intelligence in preparation for the U.S. pull-out from Afghanistan in 2014 may be difficult under “disastrous” sequestration cuts, to use the word of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

Sequestration would cut the fiscal 2013 intelligence budget by about 9 percent, or $6.5 billion. Contractors probably will take most of the hit, according to an analysis by Bloomberg Government Defense Analyst Rob Levinson.

By connecting dots from reports and public statements by officials, Levinson estimated that intelligence agencies will spend 70 percent, or $50.3 billion, of their $71.8 billion 2013 budget on contracts. Levinson estimates that about $43.3 billion of that goes for goods and services, the other $7 billion for contracted core personnel directly supporting intel operations.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta may be able to keep his vow to shelter a portion of intelligence funds from “routine” budget cuts. He can’t protect them from the sequestration cuts required by the Budget Control Act.

“We will protect our investments in special operations forces, new technologies like ISR and unmanned systems, space and cyberspace capabilities and our capacity to quickly mobilize,” Panetta said at the Jan. 5 unveiling of the Pentagon’s strategic review. ISR refers to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, which encompasses the video, geospatial and sensor data collected by drones, satellites, manned aircraft and other equipment, along with the software used to analyze it. Contractors provide most of the ISR equipment and software and even some of the personnel needed to use and analyze it.