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Inside Politics

White House unveils intelligence director legislation

From Susan Malveaux
CNN Washington Bureau

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush has submitted legislation to Congress outlining his administration's vision of the power and role of the new national intelligence director.

The legislation proposes leaving the Pentagon in control of the military intelligence agencies and the secretary of defense with substantial influence over the budget process.

"The defense secretary will maintain significant authority over its departmental intelligence because it's necessary to protect our troops and give them the best opportunity to prevail," National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack said.

The proposal calls for the national intelligence director to have budget authority over the National Foreign Intelligence Program, which gets more than half of the $40 billion intelligence budget.

McCormack said the director would not make budget decisions related to the tactical and military operations' intelligence budget, such as parts of the Defense Intelligence Agency, which feeds intelligence to the Defense Department.

"The [Department of Defense] and director of [central] intelligence used to have equal say. There used to be logjams. But the [national intelligence director] would effectively have the final say over individual agencies' budgets not related to defense," McCormack said.

The White House dismissed any suggestion the president is backpedaling from his expressed intent to give the national intelligence director full budget authority. (Bush backs budget power)

"When we said full budget authority, we meant full budget authority," McCormack said. He said the power would be authority "that allowed him to effectively do his job."

"There is nothing new about this legislation than what the president called for before. This was simply put in 'legislative-ese,' " he said.

The proposal also calls for the national intelligence director to:

  • Obtain the advice of the defense secretary and consult with other intelligence agencies on the consolidated budget;
  • Get approval from the director of the Office of Management and Budget before transferring or reprogramming funds within the National Foreign Intelligence Program;
  • Play a role in the hiring and firing of top intelligence heads, but not act unilaterally.
  • The panel that investigated the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks recommended the creation of the national intelligence director position, along with other intelligence reforms in its final report.

    Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Joe Lieberman, D-Connecticut, have introduced legislation that would implement those recommendations. (Senate bill would implement 9/11 panel proposals)

    Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, has proposed merging the CIA with agencies now under the Pentagon and other departments. (GOP senators propose sweeping reforms)

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