- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 16, 2005

President Bush has yet to nominate a new director of national intelligence, and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s top Democrat yesterday said the “administration’s foot-dragging” is “unacceptable.”

“Last summer, the Congress made reforming the intelligence community its top legislative priority,” Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia said yesterday during a Senate intelligence committee session.

“Two months have now passed since the bill-signing ceremony, and the position of director of national intelligence remains vacant. Not even a person nominated. This is simply unacceptable,” he said. “It is unacceptable that the administration has not shown the same urgency in selecting a DNI that the Congress took in creating the position.”

The White House said President Bush considers the appointment of a DNI a “high priority.”

“That’s why he pushed Congress to get legislation passed that included the creation of a strong director of national intelligence,” said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. “The president knows that it’s a critically important position, and he wants to make sure we get the right person to fill the position.”

But the spokesman said Mr. Bush’s decision about who will fill the post will be “based on who the president believes is the right person, not based on partisan posturing.”

“This is a newly created position of critical importance who is going to oversee a newly created agency, and the president is going to make sure we get it right,” Mr. McClellan said.

In December, Congress overwhelmingly approved legislation to reorganize the U.S. intelligence community, and created the director of national intelligence position ” a Cabinet-level post that requires Senate confirmation ” to oversee 15 agencies. The recommendation came from the September 11 commission, which investigated the failure of the government to foresee the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Once confirmed, the DNI would coordinate all segments of the intelligence community, including the CIA and FBI, and be the principal intelligence adviser to the president.

While the DNI would have authority over the approximately $40 billion the United States spends on intelligence collection annually, several issues are still not clear, including how the relationship between the DNI and the CIA director will work.

White House officials have said Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. is leading the search for the DNI. Former CIA Director Robert M. Gates reportedly was offered the post, but decided to remain president of Texas A&M; University.

Few names have been floated in recent weeks, and Mr. McClellan said he would not speculate about when a nomination will be made.

Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican and chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said he shares the concerns expressed by Mr. Rockefeller, but said it is “crucially important … to get the right person.”

“That person should have managerial experience, obviously expertise in intelligence, obviously expertise and experience perhaps in the military,” Mr. Roberts said. “I hope that the administration will move in an expeditious fashion, but in a fashion that gets the right person for the job.”

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