Intelligence czar could have IT 'grand duke'

The newly proposed National Intelligence Director could well oversee a newly strengthened CIO's office for the intelligence community, according to legislation pending in Congress.

President Bush today said he would ask Congress to reorganize the intelligence community to unify oversight of the nation's spy agencies, thereby adopting some of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission on terrorist attacks.

His recommendations came against the background of heightened terrorism alerts in the Northeast.

The president's proposals speak to the overall organization of the intelligence community, and call for the proposed NID to be appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate. The new director would oversee a National Counterterrorism Center that would blend the intelligence of more than a dozen agencies.

Bush said he would create the NCTC by executive order.

Bush's proposals came a day after Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge announced detailed new intelligence about threats to specific financial industry buildings in New York, New Jersey and Washington.

Congress' role in the proposed reorganization appeared likely to slow the process down somewhat, observers in the policy community noted. Ray Bjorklund, vice president and chief knowledge officer of Federal Sources Inc., pointed out that the intelligence community has been marked by disjointed coordination and cultures.

The pending intelligence authorization bill for fiscal 2005, H.R. 4548, creates the statutory post of assistant director of central intelligence for information management and directs the person holding that job to:

  • be the intelligence community's CIO

  • manage intelligence community IT

  • hold procurement approval over all IT items related to the enterprise architectures of all intelligence community agencies

  • direct and manage all IT procurement for the intelligence community

  • ensure that all IT spending across the intelligence community, as well as research and development work, be consistent with the enterprise architecture

  • not work as the CIO of any other agency while holding the intelligence community CIO job.

  • The legislative language provides that the assistant director of intelligence for information management be appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate. It further provides that the official holding the newly created position in effect have all the authority formerly granted to the director of central intelligence for administration.

    The House Intelligence Committee added harsh words about the intelligence community's enterprise architecture in its report on the bill, saying that existing efforts to form a unified plan for intelligence IT have been feeble and that a communitywide enterprise architecture is essential.

    The committee directed the newly strengthened intelligence community CIO to draft an enterprise architecture that would bind all intelligence agencies.

    These proposals, circulated before the 9/11 commission issued its report, form part of the policy background against which intelligence agency reform legislation will be drafted. But Congress is on break until Sept. 7.

    Homeland security committees in both chambers are holding hearings this month on the commission's report. But analysts warned that legislative involvement portends delays.

    James Carafano, senior fellow with the Heritage Foundation, said the proposals could amount to 'another layer of bureaucracy. There are other ways to do this.' He also warned that the proposed intelligence czar would still have the 'day job' of overseeing the new counterterrorism center.

    Bjorklund made a similar comment, noting that because the director of the CIA also holds the job of director of central intelligence, the federal government already has an intelligence czar. 'I don't know that an intelligence czar can achieve cohesion,' he said.

    Until Congress creates the NID position, and the president and the Senate fill the job, the director of the new counterterrorism center will report to the director of the CIA, Bush said.

    Additional directives will follow to speed information sharing, the president said. 'All relevant agencies must complete the task of adopting common databases and procedures so that intelligence and homeland security information can be shared and searched effectively, consist with privacy and civil liberties,' he said.

    Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.), chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, praised Bush's reaction to the 9/11 commission's recommendations. She specifically endorsed the proposals for the new intelligence supremo and the counterterrorism information clearinghouse. Her committee is holding hearings this week on the 9/11 commission's report; it oversees the Homeland Security Department.

    Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Select Committee, praised Bush's decision not to put the NID in the Executive Office of the President. He noted that keeping the intelligence czar out of the White House would reduce the opportunity for 'politicization or the perception of politicization of intelligence.'

    Cox also praised Bush's call for Congress to reorganize its homeland security oversight methods, mainly to reduce the number of committees DHS reports to.


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