Intel suffers from weak congressional oversight, senators told

Key senators and former members of the 9/11 Commission on Tuesday said congressional oversight of the nation's intelligence community remains dysfunctional, despite repeated attempts to make reforms.

In an effort to address the ongoing problems, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and other senators introduced a bipartisan resolution that would create a single committee in the Senate with the power to authorize and appropriate funding for the intelligence community.

The concept was proposed by the 9/11 Commission in 2004, but has never gained traction in Congress.

"Few things are more difficult to change in Washington than committee jurisdiction," former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., who co-chaired the 9/11 Commission, told a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.

Hamilton said the nation is "less safe" because Congress is not conducting effective oversight of the intelligence community.

Hamilton and panel members said a major problem is lack of coordination between the Intelligence Committee, which authorizes intelligence programs and spending, and the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, which allocates the money. The intelligence community received $43.5 billion in fiscal 2007, according to recently declassified figures.

Senate Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., called the idea of combining authorizing and appropriating power into one committee "deeply attractive," but said he does not believe enough senators would vote for doing so. He said the proposal could actually weaken the Intelligence Committee if it failed because appropriators would know their power was not threatened.

Former Rep. Tim Roemer, D-Ind., who also served on the 9/11 Commission, said "there's no doubt that there is a battle going on here in the Senate and over in the House" between authorizers and appropriators.

Senate Intelligence ranking member Christopher (Kit) Bond, R-Mo., said billions have been misspent due to the lack of coordination.

In an effort to improve coordination, the Intelligence and Appropriations committees signed an agreement in February to share information and jointly make budget decisions. Bond said the agreement has failed. "I can tell you that if change has occurred I haven't seen it," Bond said.

Rockefeller said he believes the agreement "has made great strides toward bringing our committees together in a unity of effort that was lacking before." But he said he is looking for solutions to problems that persist.

Bond said he favors the idea of enacting a law that requires the appropriators to take input from the authorizers.

Rockefeller said another major problem is that the Bush administration refuses to share information with his committee.

"For years, the White House and the intelligence community have repeatedly withheld information and documents -- even unclassified documents -- from the committee that we have asked for," he said. "Just last week, officials uniquely knowledgeable about the CIA [secret detention] program were prevented from meeting with the committee staff to answer questions."

Hamilton and Roemer said the only weapon that senators can use to extract information from the White House is withholding money.

"If you want access to information that you can't get ... don't give them the money. You'll get access to the information," Hamilton told Rockefeller.

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
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    View
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    View
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    View
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    View
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    View
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    View
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    View

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.