Lawmakers seek financial accountability in intelligence reform

House members draft language that would ask new national intelligence director to select head of finance.

When the full House takes up intelligence reform legislation later this week, two Government Reform Committee members will introduce an amendment designed to enhance financial accountability in the operations of the proposed national intelligence director.

Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Todd Platts, R-Pa., will offer language that would require the national intelligence director to designate a deputy director for finance. The finance deputy would report to the director and would ensure responsible management of the billions of tax dollars slated to fall under the new office's control.

"If we are to grant the national intelligence director significant budget authority, we must also have a structure to ensure financial accountability," Platts said last week during a Government Reform Committee markup of the House bill (H.R. 10). The office also would handle a large volume of classified information, increasing the "need for a high-level financial leader," he added.

Preliminary versions of both the House and Senate (S. 2845) bills call for a new national intelligence director, as recommended by the Sept. 11 Commission in their final report in the summer. The director would have significant budgetary authority, but the two bills diverge on the limits of the authority.

Platts originally planned to offer an amendment placing the national intelligence director's office under the 1990 Chief Financial Officer's Act, a law requiring presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed CFOs to oversee financial management at 23 major agencies. The Senate recently passed legislation adding the Homeland Security Department to the list of agencies covered by the law.

But Davis would like to keep the intelligence director's office "nimble and flexible," said Drew Crockett, a spokesman. "Once you start adding Senate-confirmed positions that must adhere to current statutes like the CFO Act, the bureaucracy within [the national intelligence director's office] will surely grow," he said. "It would just be a matter of time before other 'chiefs' were added, like a chief information officer."

Platts and Davis agreed to the compromise of creating the deputy finance position. The Senate version of the intelligence bill asks the intelligence director to designate a comptroller-a position equivalent to the deputy called for in the Davis-Platts amendment.