Defense officials oppose overhaul of intelligence community

The chief of Pentagon intelligence agencies argued Wednesday against the creation of a national director of intelligence post, saying such a move would hurt the government's intelligence community overall.

"I honestly do not see advantage to the creation of a different structure for the governance of the intelligence community than the one we have today," Stephen Cambone told the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces during a hearing. Cambone became the first Defense undersecretary for intelligence one year ago.

Democrats on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence introduced legislation on April 1 that would establish an office and director of national intelligence to oversee the CIA and Pentagon agencies tasked with collecting and analyzing information. The federal commission investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks also is considering recommendations for setting up a new domestic intelligence service. The commission will make any such recommendations in its final report, which is due at the end of July.

Cambone argued that such a move would disrupt the relationship between the secretary of Defense and the director of central intelligence. CIA director George Tenet currently wears the hat of director of central intelligence, although by law he only controls the CIA while the Pentagon controls about 90 percent of money spent each year on intelligence.

"Absent the deep and abiding relationship between the [director of central intelligence] and the secretary of Defense, it is easy to see the ways in which seams would begin to grow…between organizations and in which the Department of Defense would not be benefited and, in fact, the intelligence community as a whole would be hurt by that split," Cambone said. "Sustaining the existing relationship between this is essential."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also argued against the creation of "an intelligence czar" when he testified before the Sept. 11 commission March 30. Centralizing intelligence "would be a major mistake and could damage our country's intelligence capability severely," he said, adding that "multiple centers of information have proven to be better at promoting creativity and challenging conventional thinking."

The fact that defense officials oppose creating an office of domestic intelligence outside the Pentagon's purview should not be surprising, said Mel Goodman, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and professor at the National War College in Washington.

Goodman, who worked at the CIA for 24 years, said Rumsfeld would lose control of the majority of intelligence funding and operations if such a move were made. But, Goodman said, the government should "demilitarize" the intelligence community, or remove so much control from the Pentagon. The nation needs a "central repository for domestic and foreign intelligence," he said, adding his support for creating a director of national intelligence.

At the very least, Goodman noted, the role of director of central intelligence should be separate from the role of the CIA director.

"It is something that the CIA will fight," he acknowledged. "It's something that some intelligence people will argue is not the right step."

The proposal for creating a director of national intelligence was proposed last year by the joint congressional committee that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks, and before that by Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser, in his role as chairman of President Bush's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec