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Bush unveils intelligence plan

/ Source: news services

President Bush, who had promised to give a new national intelligence director “full budgetary authority,” submitted a plan Thursday to Congress that stopped short of giving the director all of the powers sought by the commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, documents show.

In a rare move, Bush submitted his own legislation to key congressional committees that would ensure that the defense secretary continued to play a substantial role in the intelligence budget process.

Under Bush’s proposal, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, the national intelligence director would “develop and determine” the annual consolidated budget for the National Foreign Intelligence Program, which constitutes more than half of the $40 billion intelligence budget.

But the White House says the intelligence director would do so based on the budget proposals of the individual intelligence agencies and after obtaining the advice of the defense secretary and other members of Bush’s Cabinet.

The Sept. 11 commission recommended creation of a national intelligence director to control almost all of the nation’s intelligence agencies because it said the 15 U.S. intelligence agencies did not work together properly to stop the attacks on New York City and Washington. It called for the new director to have full authority over the intelligence budget.

Plans already in Congress
The president’s proposal falls short of reforms envisioned in an intelligence reorganization working its way through the Senate, which itself is less sweeping than the overhaul the Sept. 11 panel called for. House leaders, meanwhile, promised Wednesday that they, too, would have a reorganization plan before going home to campaign for re-election.

The main spokesmen for the Senate effort, Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairwoman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, the committee’s ranking Democrat, argued that giving the intelligence director power to decide how much money each agency received and how that agency could spend that money would force the intelligence agencies to follow the director.

“Without budget authority, we would just be creating another level of bureaucracy,” Collins said Wednesday.

However, Collins and Lieberman spurned the 9/11 commission’s recommendation that all of the nation’s intelligence agencies be under control of the national intelligence director, leaving the Defense Department in control of some of the military intelligence agencies.

The intelligence director would control the budgets of the CIA; the National Security Agency; the FBI’s Office of Intelligence; the Homeland Security Department’s intelligence directorate; the National Reconnaissance Office, which operates spy satellites; the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which analyzes satellite pictures; and any other agency that has a “national” scope.

Pentagon would still control military intelligence
Under the Senate plan, the Defense Department would keep control of the Defense Intelligence Agency, which collects intelligence for military planning and operations, and other intelligence agencies solely used by the Defense Department or the military.

The Defense Department controls 80 percent of the money spent on intelligence, estimated at $40 billion a year. Much of the information is used mainly by the military as it tracks foreign arsenals and weapons development.

Much of that money “would now switch to the national intelligence director,” Lieberman said.

Aides suggested that the Defense Department would get only about 20 percent of the intelligence budget under the Senate plan, while the national intelligence director would control the rest.

The Senate plan does not deal with reorganizing Congress’ oversight responsibilities, another concern of the Sept. 11 committee. The Senate’s assistant leaders, Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada, will come up with suggestions for the Senate to consider for consolidating its intelligence oversight.

“If we’re going to do some construction on the executive branch, we ought to do some construction on the legislative branch,” Reid said.