- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 14, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge yesterday endorsed creating a new national director to coordinate the nation’s intelligence agencies, telling senators that giving the position real power will help keep America safe.

“A strong national intelligence director (NID) is essential,” Mr. Powell told the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee at a morning hearing. “That strength is gained by giving the NID full budget authority.”

“In this town, it’s the ultimate command and control,” Mr. Ridge added.

The two secretaries also said a new intelligence director will help them do their jobs.

“Do you believe that a strong national intelligence director … will improve the quality of intelligence you both receive?” asked Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the committee’s chairman.

“Yes, I do. We need a stronger, empowered quarterback,” Mr. Powell replied.

Mr. Ridge agreed and said such a move likely would facilitate his access to intelligence.

President Bush last week endorsed the idea of combining most of the nation’s nonmilitary intelligence agencies under a new national director, a recommendation that the committee investigating the September 11 attacks pushed strongly in its final report.

The panel also called for the director to have the power to decide how to spend money that Congress sets aside for nonmilitary intelligence work. Mr. Bush also supports that idea, as do many members of Congress.

The commission said part of the problem before and on September 11, 2001, was that the nation’s 15 intelligence agencies were not working properly together and suggested that creating a strong intelligence director would force those agencies to cooperate.

“The president’s proposal will provide better unity of effort in the intelligence community and improved linkage with law enforcement, which will greatly enhance our ability to do our job of protecting Americans and securing the homeland,” Mr. Ridge said.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld last week said consolidating the agencies under a single director could lead to more “group think” among intelligence analysts than already exists.

Mr. Rumsfeld said competition between intelligence agencies must be managed so that “the tension is constructive, rather than destructive,” Mr. Rumsfeld told editors and reporters of The Washington Times.

Both Mr. Powell and Mr. Ridge warned senators against following the commission’s recommendation of giving the intelligence director deputies inside the CIA, the Defense Department and the FBI.

“We need clear lines of authority, and to have in the structure people who have to report to two different masters would not contribute to clarity of responsibility and accountability,” Mr. Powell said.

The Senate next week expects to start working on final legislation to reorganize the 15 intelligence agencies and create a national intelligence director. House leaders still are working out how that chamber will deal with the commission’s legislative recommendations.

One intelligence agency not affected by the president’s or the September 11 commission’s proposal is the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, which gets its $50 million from that department’s budget and works directly with the secretary of state.


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