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Hearing of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee - Intelligence, Homeland Defense and Military Operations

Location: Washington, DC

Federal News Service






SEN. MARK PRYOR (D-AR): Thank you, Madame Chairman. And thank you and Senator Lieberman again-both of you-for your leadership on this issue. It's very important.

And, Secretary Powell and Secretary Ridge, we appreciate you all here. I know how busy your schedules are.

So, Secretary Powell, let me start with you.

I found your testimony very interesting, especially the part where you said we do not-you do not need, as a consumer you do not need a series of worst-case scenarios. And I like what you said about, you know, talking to your staff, saying, "Tell me what you know, tell me what you don't know, and also, based on what you do and don't know, tell me what you think." I think that's a very healthy approach.

And you also mentioned that it's important as we-as we, the Congress and the intelligence community, as we go through these reforms, it's very important that we get it right. And I agree with you 100 percent on that.

And so I guess I have a general question to start with of you, Secretary Powell. And that is, what changes would you like to see that would help the State Department? And I'm sure there are some changes that you think would be a mistake if we made those changes because they would, in effect, hurt the State Department. Could you elaborate on that?

SEC. POWELL: I think the creation of a NID will help the State Department, and I will just refer to what I was discussing with Senator Coleman, that it now gives me somebody to talk to. DCI was there before, but the DCI did not have the kind of authority. And in this town it's budget authority that counts. Can you move money? Can you set standards for people? Do you have the access needed to the president? The NID will have all of that, and so I think this is a far more powerful player. And that will help State Department.

There is a tendency in the intelligence community to make sure we're giving the warfighters everything they need, and I would never argue with that, because I used to be one of them. But now I think I have a better-I'm in a better position to point out the needs of the foreign policy experts of the department and my need as secretary of State, not only with a more powerful NID, but with me and Tom and our other colleagues being on the council.

I would be careful-and I don't want to get into this too deeply, because it really is the purview of others-I would be very careful if you started to proliferate too much bureaucracy, too many-center of this, center of that, center of this. The conversation we had earlier with Senator Lieberman. I can assure you there are only a finite number of Hangul speakers for the Korean language, and Arabic speakers, and with the academic background and experience needed to do these jobs. And if you create a lot more structure and slice and dice it, it's the same group that's going to have to cover all the new spaces until you grow new experts. And that is a very time-consuming matter. So that would be my caution, Senator.

SEN. PRYOR: Great.

Secretary Ridge, let me ask you, if I can: In the 9/11 commission report, it says that-this is a quote-"Congress should be able to ask the secretary of Homeland Security whether he or she has the resources to provide reasonable security against major terrorist acts within the U.S." It's on page 421. Do you have the resources necessary?

SEC. RIDGE: Oh, you ask me, Senator, every time I come to the Hill.

SEN. PRYOR: (Laughs.) I know that.

SEC. RIDGE: And the answer is yes.


SEC. RIDGE: The answer is yes. Sometimes we differ with regard to priorities, but the budgets that I've been able to request on behalf of the president, I think, the Congress has generously supported. Sometimes you move some dollars around because from your perspective we had different priorities within DHS, and it's our job to accommodate that adjustment and try to do both. But we do.

SEN. PRYOR: Secretary Ridge, also in the 9/11 commission report it was mentioned that, I believe, the Department of Homeland Security has to appear before 88 committees and subcommittees in Congress. And one witness told the commission that this is perhaps the single largest obstacle impeding the department's successful development. And again that's on page 421. Do you agree with that assessment?

SEC. RIDGE: Well, first of all, we accept obviously not only the constitutional notion of Congress' oversight responsibility and appropriation responsibility, but the fact that we are building the department together. There is a partnership. I mean, there's strong support for this department on both sides of the aisle from the Congress, and we continue to build it together. There's more work to be done.

I would tell you in-last year, both myself and my colleagues and senior leadership testified over 140 times on the Hill. Many of them were involved in over 800 briefings up here, and I think we probably responded to seven (hundred) or 800 requests for information from GAO in addition to hundreds-particularly hundreds of pieces of correspondence from individual members of the House or Senate.

So it's partnership we expect and respect the oversight. Frankly, we think it could be a much more effective partnership and more rigorous oversight if the jurisdictions were compressed, though I'll leave that to the wisdom of the leadership on the Hill.

SEN. PRYOR: The 9/11 commission said 88 committees and subcommittees.

SEC. RIDGE: That's correct.

SEN. PRYOR: Is that right?

SEC. RIDGE: Someone took a look at the 535 members of Congress and said, but for a handful, somebody somewhere has an opportunity to make an inquiry that has Homeland Security implications.


And the last thing I had is, I know that in the 9/11 commission report it really talks about how some people should report to two different agency heads, and the NID's deputy for homeland intelligence would be one of those. And I guess I'm a little bit mindful of, you know, what the Bible says about not being able to serve two masters. Do you think that can be worked out in-structurally, that one person, one deputy could be reporting to both? And does that cause you any problem?

SEC. RIDGE: I think if there would be great-if that's what Congress decided we had to do, we'd do it, but the admonition about serving two masters is a good one. And I think the president, in anticipation of that concern, in his recommendation included the joint intel community council. So you're not dealing with necessarily people serving two roles on a day-to-day basis, but you have access to the principals at the Cabinet level to make the critical decisions and to give guidance and to compete for the attention and the budget and everything else that will be in the control and the responsibility of the NID.

So the dual-hatting is not an approach that I think I can-rarely do I speak for any of my colleagues in the Cabinet, but I don't think anybody supports that as a means to the most effective integration of what we do individually as departments and our working relationship with the NID.

SEN. PRYOR: Thank you, Madame Chair.

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