Oct. 4, 2004
NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE REFORM ACT OF 2004
Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, first, I congratulate Senator Collins and Senator Lieberman for their very fine work on this bill. Anyone who has watched this debate has to be very impressed by the work they have done in, frankly, a relatively short period of time. They have held a number of hearings. They have diligently worked on this bill and brought the bill to the floor.
I came to the floor last week and asked my colleague from Maine some questions. I thought she had some very good answers. As I expressed at that time-and I have made no secret of this-I have always been concerned that any bill we produce, in fact, give the head of our intelligence enough authority, enough power to actually get the job done. And that was my concern. Frankly, that was the nature of my questions to my colleague from Maine last week.
I come to the floor this morning to express my concerns about the Byrd amendment. My reading of the Byrd amendment is, frankly, that it would strike at the heart of the Collins-Lieberman bill. I believe if the Byrd amendment were to be adopted, all my worst fears would be realized, and we would end up with a bill that would look like it was giving power to this new head of intelligence in this country, but, in fact, that person would not really have the requisite power they needed.
I wonder if I may ask my friend and colleague from Maine several questions about her interpretation of the Byrd amendment.
My understanding is that the Byrd amendment begins, on the copy I have, on page 27 of the bill and strikes the title "Transfer or Reprogramming of Funds and Transfer of Personnel within NIP."
I wonder if my colleague shares my concerns about the danger of this amendment. I think, frankly, this is a gutting amendment. I wonder what her reaction to that is.
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Mr. DeWINE. I appreciate very much my colleague's response. That is the way I read this. As I expressed when I was on the floor last week, really what we need to do is to empower this person, this new position with the authority to get the job done. Never again do we want to be in a position where the head of intelligence of this country can come before the committee and say: I do not have enough power; I do not have the authority to get the job done; I could not move people around; I did not have the budget authority.
That, I think, is what my two colleagues who are on the floor right now have tried to craft with this bill. If you look at this particular section, it talks about the transfer of people and the transfer of money, and the ability of that person to be able to do that and to be the prime mover, the prime person who could do that.
Never again should the head of intelligence in this country really be subservient to anybody else. Yes, they should consult. Yes, they should involve other people. But they certainly should be the prime person.
I wonder if I may ask my colleague-I see Senator Lieberman on the floor-I know some people do have concerns with the way the Senator has written the bill, that other agencies would not be consulted. With the way the Senator has written the bill, would the new head of intelligence consult other agencies and be involved with other agencies with regard to these very essential decisions?
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Mr. DeWINE. If I may ask an additional question for Senators who are watching today, maybe the answer is obvious, but what is the importance of that distinction, the inability to do that, having that money go through the Defense Department as opposed to the national intelligence director?
Mr. LIEBERMAN. It is just such a strange circumstance with which I believe many members of our committee were surprised to find, that the intelligence budget, including the CIA budget, the Central Intelligence Agency right now, goes through the Department of Defense before it gets there. Obviously, the Defense Department is an important user of intelligence, perhaps the most important, so is the State Department, the President, and the Homeland Security Department.
The current situation is a little bit-let me see if I can think of an analogy, and I know this is farfetched-where the budget of the Securities and Exchange Commission went through the Department of Health and Human Services. It may be a little farfetched. Maybe it went through one of the other Departments that is slightly more related. It makes no sense.
Again, we are trying to create authority here, and authority in this town, as we kept hearing over and over, is built on money, budget authority, and this amendment would remove that authority from the national intelligence director and, therefore, weaken that position. I fear it would get us back to where we are now, where we do not have that authority with anyone in the intelligence community and no one is in charge.
Mr. DeWINE. I wonder if I may ask my colleague another question. As one looks at the language throughout the bill that Senator Collins and Senator Lieberman have crafted, they have made a distinction between the national intelligence programs and the nonnational intelligence programs, given certainly the authority over the national intelligence programs and what they described as far as the budget authority, execution authority over those to the national intelligence director.
The other programs that are not national intelligence programs continue to remain, then, with other departments-for example, the Defense Department-is that correct?
Mr. LIEBERMAN. I am sorry? I missed the question.
Mr. DeWINE. The other programs that are not national intelligence programs would not come under, then, the national intelligence director?
Mr. LIEBERMAN. That is correct. We tried to draw some lines. They are not always clear because there are a lot of programs that overlap, but to say that anything in the national intelligence budget should go to the national intelligence director, that is his or her job. There are other programs that are uniquely the work of the Defense Department-I am going to put it another way: that are totally used by the Defense Department for tactical intelligence to support the work of one service of the military or a joint military action. But those assets are not used for anything else in our intelligence community nonmilitary and, of course, they should go for budget control to the Secretary of Defense.
Mr. DeWINE. That is the way the Senator's bill is written?
Mr. LIEBERMAN. Absolutely. We preserve that. There are one or two amendments that are seeking still to clarify that break that we will debate and vote on I would guess before this bill is finally considered, but that is exactly what we have done in the underlying bill.
Mr. DeWINE. When I came to the Senate floor last week, I was asking questions of both the Senator from Connecticut and my colleague from Maine, and I was happy to hear some of the answers about the Senator's understanding of this bill that has been drafted, but I am concerned that under the amendment from our colleague from West Virginia, these powers would be gone. For example, I asked about the ability to move personnel around, and the Senator assured me under his bill the national intelligence director would be able to move personnel around from one department to another as long as it was a national intelligence program. Is it the Senator's understanding under the amendment from our colleague from West Virginia that power would be gone?
Mr. LIEBERMAN. I say through the Chair, that power would be seriously limited, which is to say the personnel transfers under the amendment would have to be done in accordance with procedures to be developed by the national intelligence director with the concerned department head and only for periods up to 1 year, and that is a constriction that says to the national intelligence director: You do not have the latitude to do what you think is necessary to protect the national security interests. This is a little bit like saying to a general: You can only make a decision for a short period of time in moving your troops around to better confront the enemy and achieve victory. It makes no sense. It is a critical part of the overall proposal of our bill and the 9/11 Commission.
If the Senator from Ohio would give me a moment, this morning, the Family Steering Committee composed of families of victims of 9/11 sent a letter to every Senator commenting on some of these amendments. With regard to this amendment introduced by the Senator from West Virginia, No. 3845, they say that the 9/11 Commission has stated repeatedly that the power of the purse is critical for the national intelligence director position. S. 2845, the underlying bill, provides for the national intelligence director to be empowered with budget execution and transfer authorities. The NID also needs to be able to transfer personnel in response to threats, which is what the Senator's question goes to. So the families conclude: In summary, we oppose amendment No. 3845 introduced by the Senator from West Virginia and others because it reduces the authority of the national intelligence director.
I thank the Senator.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Maine.
Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, if the Senator from Ohio would yield on that point.
Mr. DeWINE. I sure will.
Ms. COLLINS. The amendment offered by our colleague from West Virginia would actually give the national intelligence director less authority than the DCI has under current law to move people and money around to address urgent needs. It not only would undo the reforms in our bill, it is a step back from current law.
Under the Byrd amendment, aggregate transfers from a department or agency would be limited to $100 million or 5 percent of the funds available to the department or the agency. There is no such limitation in current law. The amendment offered by the Senator from West Virginia not only undermines the reforms in this bill and significantly would weaken the authority of the NID to move people and money to meet urgent compelling needs, but it actually is weaker than the authority that the Director of the CIA now has. I just wanted to make that point. I know the Senator from Ohio is aware of that as well.
Mr. DeWINE. I thank my colleague for her answer, and that is something that should alarm all the Members of the Senate. I believe there is a general consensus-certainly there is in the intelligence community, a general consensus at least, and I think there is among Members of the Senate-that the power of the DCI today is not enough, and to think that we would be thinking about passing a bill that would pass with this amendment possibly that would weaken the head of our intelligence agencies and give that person less power to me is a shocking thought.
I believe our whole goal should, in a very responsible, rational way, create a new system, which this bill has done, to empower one person to have the authority to run the intelligence in this country. I am afraid, as this discussion has pointed out between my colleagues and myself, that the Byrd amendment will take us actually in the wrong direction. It is a weakening amendment. At least for this Member, it is a gutting amendment. It, frankly, would make it impossible for me to vote for this bill. It would destroy the power of the head of intelligence, this new position, and it would be the wrong thing to do. It is very well intended, but it would be a very serious mistake. This discussion we just had certainly brings that out.
Again, I want to congratulate my colleagues. They have done a very good job in trying to deal with all of the diverse needs we have in the intelligence community, the Defense Department, and all the other agencies. It has been a very tough job, and I congratulate them for their work.
I yield the floor.