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Federal News Service - Hearing of the House Armed Services Committee - Implications of the Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission - Transcript

Location: Washington, DC

Federal News Service







REP. NEIL ABERCROMBIE (D-HI): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Good morning and aloha. Major general, it's nice to see you here again in this context. I too want to add my gratitude to you and your troops for when the chairman and I came to Iraq-I think the first folks to actually be in on the ground in Iraq. And a lot has transpired since then.

My questions go more to Secretary Cambone. We had an opportunity just at the end of our informal conversation yesterday, Mr. Secretary, to discuss some of the fundamental nature of organizational structure that's implicit or in fact explicit in the 9/11 recommendations. Most particularly, if you will recall my conversation I think is the best way to put it about the national security advisor, the relationship of the national security advisor to the national intelligence director, the relationship of the national security advisor to the secretary of Defense and the organizations associated with the secretary's responsibility, and the proposals of the 9/11 Commission, particularly with regard to the idea of the DCI, the director of central intelligence, being replaced in effect by the national intelligence director, who would assume the roles of head of the intelligence community and advisor to the president, but not head the CIA.

Now, the president has made his own recommendations within that context. The 9/11 Commission also asked that the national intelligence director would approve and submit nominations to the president for head of the CIA, the DIA, the National Security Agency, et cetera. In that context, could you comment or are you prepared to comment officially at this stage as to what the relationship-how you see the relationship then of the national security advisor to the national intelligence director in the context of what the DOD needs to do at the policy level? Set aside the warfighter discussion that we also had yesterday and has been a central focus up to this point of the two previous hearings.

MR. CAMBONE: I enjoyed our conversation yesterday, and I thank the chairman for arranging it for us. I'm not sure that I think we will have --

REP. ABERCROMBIE: My role in life is to have enjoyable conversations. It's an assignment the chairman gave me. (Laughter.)

MR. CAMBONE: But I understand he's going to make you pay for breakfast next time-was the deal.

My understanding, again, is that the basic relationships won't change in the sense that the task of the national intelligence director is to be the principal advisor to the president on matters of intelligence, not on matters of policy. The national security advisor is a consumer of that intelligence. As in the case of Dr. Rice, she is also a consumer of advice from-given by the secretary, by the chairman, by the secretary of State, and her task, as I understand it, and she has executed it, is to pull that all together on behalf of the principals of the National Security Council, represent their views to the president, and in turn represent the president's interests back to the members of the National Security Council when they meet in the principals committee. So I see this director as being someone who is going to have his focus unambiguously on the questions of what's evolving in the world of intelligence from his position of not having to run an agency, but being able to look across all of the community and advise the president accordingly.

REP. ABERCROMBIE: Well, if I accept your analysis-and I do-as to what the role and the operational role of the national security advisor is, then who is going to be in charge? Who can direct-why shouldn't the national security advisor then-well, let me ask you this before I make my point: Do you think then-have you concluded in a hierarchial sense what the role of the national security advisor is in relation to the national intelligence director? Is he or she-in the present instance she-in charge of or over the national security-or does the national intelligence director report through her to the president?

MR. CAMBONE: I don't believe that that's the intent, sir. But I don't believe the secretary of Defense or the chairman report through the national security advisor either. I mean, she in that sense is not in an operational-she's not an operational-has not --

REP. ABERCROMBIE: No, I'm not asking that. I'm not asking that. I'm asking what would be the relationship as you see it now with what the president has recommended? Mr. Chairman, if you'd just indulge me 30 seconds here, I'm trying to get this answer, because we can't make a decision in here --

REP. HUNTER: Well, let's give Mr. Cambone a shot to --

MR. CAMBONE: I told you as much as I think I understand. I mean, at that point I don't know --

REP. ABERCROMBIE: Okay, would you agree then, in conclusion of this portion of my time, would you agree that this-the precise nature of the relationship and authority and obligation needs to be clearly understood before we can move forward and make legislative recommendations?

MR. CAMBONE: And I have no doubt that --

REP. ABERCROMBIE: Okay, thank you.

MR. CAMBONE: -- that when the president completes his review and decides how he wants to do this that there's not going to be ambiguity in these relationships.



REP. ABERCROMBIE: Mr. Chairman-could I get 15 seconds of your time before you yield back?

REP. KLINE: I gladly yield those 15 seconds.

REP. ABERCROMBIE: Thank you. Mr. Cambone, a follow-up on this. The law presently says that where the National Security Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, the director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency must come from within the military ranks. Is that not correct? In the military command system. I believe that's the law.

MR. CAMBONE: I don't think so, sir, because we have at the moment a civilian as the head of NGA.

REP. ABERCROMBIE: Well, I think-well, then, I'm misinformed.

MR. CAMBONE: I don't believe so.

REP. ABERCROMBIE: Maybe they have generally come from --

MR. CAMBONE: I think it's an either/or kind of thing.

REP. HUNTER: In which case I'll reclaim my time, sir; yield back.

REP. ABERCROMBIE: Well, it makes a difference in terms of-please don't; just 10 more seconds. Maybe it's at the pleasure, then, of the secretary.

MR. CAMBONE: That's probably right.

REP. ABERCROMBIE: Generally, though, it has come from within the military command system. Is that not correct?

MR. CAMBONE: That has been historically how we've done it.


MR. CAMBONE: It's also the case --

REP. ABERCROMBIE: My point being, or the follow-up being, this is important. And again, it relates, Mr. Chairman, to the question of how we draft legislation or what we do, is that that is crucial, then, because the appointing authority presumably is familiar with the people like Admiral Jacoby and others and their experience within the system and knows who they are in terms of their character, if you will, which I think, where intelligence is concerned, is vitally important.


REP. HUNTER: I thank the gentleman. The gentleman from Hawaii is recognized-he had some follow-up questions. And then, Mr. Turner, did you want to follow up? The gentleman from Hawaii is recognized. But if you want to go to Mr. Turner, that's okay.

REP. ABERCROMBIE: Why don't I defer there, because I think my questions are in a different area.


REP. ABERCROMBIE: Yes, Mr. Chairman, I presume you're now calling on me because you know I'll do things right. Thank you very much.

Mr. Chairman, and members, I guess members of the panel I'll be finishing this part of our hearing, and I think perhaps it is appropriate, because the questions that I have relate exactly to what we're talking about here. Look, we're not amateurs, we're not naive. There's seasoned politicians here-believe me not the least of which is the chairman. The recommendations of the commission are just that. Obviously everything has to be refined legislatively, and that's where I want to direct my next question. I hope that on the whole, Mr. Chairman, you agree that the questions and the positions of all the members regardless of their party have been geared towards trying to get to this refinement of legislation, which is our responsibility. In that context, Secretary Cambone, I presume-I mean, I think I can say with some authority myself that you agree, and certainly the secretary of Defense agrees, that unity of effort in the intelligence area is essential. All the testimony that I've heard over the last couple days relates to that.

Now, the question then becomes operational unity of effort, and whether that would be compromised or interfered with, particularly when it comes to Special Operations Command, getting to the warfighter. That has been the subject of a lot of conversation the last couple of days. I want to set that then aside for the moment in a manner of speaking in that we've already-if you would acknowledge for conversation sake for me that we have discussed that at length, whether unity of effort, where operational unity of effort is concerned we have to pay particular attention to the recommendation about Special Operations Command.

Now, the Northern Command is in that too, and I've raised that issue before. Special Operations Command and Northern Command now could only be tasked by the department-could not only be tasked, rather, by the Department of Defense, but also by the national intelligence director. Would you agree that that is the thrust of the commission's recommendation?

MR. CAMBONE: Sir, as I understand it, that's what they were suggesting or actually recommended, yes.

REP. ABERCROMBIE: Okay, and that's where I want to direct my question then, because the way they would do that, as I read it, is that there would be-the Department of Defense coordinates taskings among the combatant commands through the joint staff, but these would also under the recommendation of the commission could be directed by the National Counterterrorism Center. Now, I personally think that this is, Mr. Chairman, probably is not a contradiction-it's at least paradoxical. It might look good on paper, but cause some real difficulties especially where Special Command is concerned. So I presume, Secretary Cambone, that you would agree at this stage that needs particular attention legislatively speaking before we move forward with that?

MR. CAMBONE: I don't think we want to be interrupting the operational lines of commands --


MR. CAMBONE: -- with respect to the Department of Defense or any other agency.

REP. ABERCROMBIE: Right. But in your particular situation here, as the undersecretary of Defense for intelligence, the reason I bring it up, and particularly to you is that if the national intelligence director was established with the NCTC, the counterterrorism center, housed within the national director's shop, I think you'd end up reporting two different places. That's the thing I'm concerned about. And you wouldn't be the only one. FBI would be that. Homeland Security would be doing the same thing. You'd have two places you'd be reporting. We need to work that out legislatively for sure.

I'm going to set aside the budgetary implications of that for the moment, because, again, I don't think you're prepared-I spoke with Mr. Moore yesterday and others, and I don't think that the Defense Department is prepared to deal with that at the moment.

Now, that takes me to the last part of what I want to deal with; that is to say, the homeland security implication, because-and this is not so much the commission, although the commission has to deal with it. It's that I still don't understand the relationship now that you have existing right now between Homeland Security, the Department of Defense and Northern Command.

I don't know who's in charge. Now, it's no secret, Mr. Secretary, that I oppose this-speaking of rushing, it's not just us and it's not-excuse me, it's not just the commission, but we went along with this, establishment of a Northern Command. And it appeared, as you know, in a budget without an index, without-if I hadn't discovered-the chairman will tell you, I pay attention to details. I discovered the Northern Command. It was never presented to us. You had to look through that budget, page 62 or whatever it was of the budget presentation. All of a sudden it's there. And there's $400 million associated with it.

And I, to this day, cannot find out where this came from and what the justification was. But, oh, we had to do it. The secretary of Defense said we had to do it. Now, the Northern Command sits there. You've drawn down people from all these other commands in order to staff it. You've got a big building out there. And what I would like to know, then, at this stage, as long as we're saying let's not move too fast and all the rest of it, whether this Northern Command is also on the table in terms of evaluation as to what its efficacy is in being able to carry out its proper functions and what the relationship of you as the undersecretary of Defense for intelligence in unity of effort is with regard to the Department of Homeland Security.

I can't figure out who's in charge-Mr. Ridge, the secretary of Defense or anybody else with respect to defending the homeland, utilizing such intelligence as comes to bear with regard to possible attack on the interior of the United States.

REP. HUNTER: The gentleman's time has expired, but the chair will --

REP. ABERCROMBIE: Well, I had --

REP. HUNTER: I had some time. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to yield my time --


REP. HUNTER: -- to the gentleman --

REP. ABERCROMBIE: I appreciate that, Mr. Chairman.

REP. HUNTER: -- to allow the witnesses to respond.

REP. ABERCROMBIE: I appreciate that, Mr. Chairman, because I hope Mr. Cambone agrees, this is not something you can just say in a sentence or two if you're going to deal with what you've already indicated is complexity.

MR. CAMBONE: And I'd be pleased, sir, to come back and bring Secretary McHale with me, who is our assistant secretary for homeland defense, and talk with you in detail. But the short answer is --

REP. HUNTER: And why don't we set that up? Let's have-I think we do need to have a detailed discussion.

REP. ABERCROMBIE: Well, Mr. McHale is my good friend, and I would appreciate that.

REP. HUNTER: So why don't we set that up and we'll have a meeting? Go ahead.

MR. CAMBONE: But the answer here today is that with respect to the Northern Command commander, the secretary of Defense, he reports to the secretary of Defense. His missions are two-fold. One is direct defense of the country. If there's another air attack or there is maritime-and the least likely, of course, is a land attack, but that could happen. So he's got the direct defense mission of the United States by direction of the president of the United States in the event of employing military forces.

He also has a secondary mission, which is support to civil authorities, which includes the Department of Homeland Security. And in that context, he, along with other members of the defense community, operate under the national response plan and all those other kinds of efforts that are in place by the Homeland Security folks.

And we have roles that are assigned and people have expectations about what needs to be done. And so, if there is an event somewhere where they require the support from the Department of Defense for homeland security purposes, that effort would be channeled through Northern Command.

REP. ABERCROMBIE: Was the commander of the Northern Command in charge of the situation involving the governor of Kentucky flying his plane into Washington air space?

MR. CAMBONE: In his NORAD hat, that was a role that he had, yes, sir.

REP. ABERCROMBIE: So he had the responsibility; he could issue the order.

MR. CAMBONE: He had the air defense-yes, sir.

REP. ABERCROMBIE: And what's the differentiation between NORAD and Northern Command?

MR. CAMBONE: NORAD is a binational command that includes the Canadians, which has additional responsibilities for aerospace defense of the North American continent. That's a binational arrangement.

REP. ABERCROMBIE: I know it is. (Laughs.) I'm aware --

MR. CAMBONE: Because it doesn't cover maritime-sir, it doesn't cover maritime and it doesn't cover terrestrial, nor does it cover civil support. NORAD doesn't do any of that. It is narrowly focused on aerospace. Northern Command has those other responsibilities.

REP. ABERCROMBIE: It's the same person, isn't it?

MR. CAMBONE: Sure. Yes, sir.


MR. CAMBONE: That's not unusual.

REP. ABERCROMBIE: So if-let me conclude with this.


REP. ABERCROMBIE: Had that plane been shot down, General Eberhart (sp) would have been the person making the decision.

MR. CAMBONE: He is the man in the chain of command, at the senior level of the chain of command.

REP. ABERCROMBIE: Then at last I'm getting an answer. The person in charge, then --

MR. CAMBONE: Was that chain.

REP. ABERCROMBIE: -- is Northern Command. Now, did everybody report to him so that this decision could be made? Do we have that, an effective intelligence-a horizontal exchange of information that enables the general to make that decision?

MR. CAMBONE: I can't do all the forensics on that event for you. It is set up, however, such that those zones are established. There are rules of engagement for activity there. There are aircraft for them. There are-all of that is --

REP. ABERCROMBIE: I appreciate it. It's too much to go into right now. The chairman has been generous with me with time. Could you then provide for me and for the committee a step-by-step recitation, narration-you could use the model of the 9/11 commission in its narrative if you wish.

I want to have-or Mr. Chairman, I request that we get a step- by-step narration of exactly what took place with the governor of Kentucky's plane incident so that I can be assured that the testimony that you've just given-it's not that I dispute what you're saying, but I can be assured that I understood it correctly?

MR. CAMBONE: No, and I think that's reasonable, sir. I will go to General Eberhart (sp) and we'll see what we can do for you.

REP. ABERCROMBIE: Very good. Thank you.

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