Transcript: Goss on 9/11 Recommendations

Rep. Porter Goss, President Bush's choice to lead the CIA, serves as chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence. Following are remarks he gave on Aug. 4 during an open hearing to discuss the recommendations from the Sept. 11 commission.

Good morning, the hearing will come to order. I’d like to thank Members and our witnesses for their participation today. Hearings in August are rare, and I know that numerous schedules and plans have had to change for you to participate.

The Committee meets today—in open session—to continue the ongoing mission of the Committee to consider ways to improve the Intelligence Community. Today’s hearing is responsive to the 9/11 Commission’s report and recommendations. Today, we begin the process of considering their contribution and moving toward a final determination of how the Intelligence Community needs to be reconstructed, not just in its bureaucratic formulation, but in its ability to collect, exploit, analyze, and disseminate intelligence that is necessary to our nation’s security. As we consider the constructive recommendations of the 9-11 Commission, we will examine as well the various proposals on these topics offered by the House and Senate’s Joint Intelligence Committees’ Inquiry into the September 11th Terror attacks, those offered by the President on Monday of this week, and the specifics of the legislative proposals introduced by Members of this Committee earlier this year. All of this is in the mix.

This is the first in a series of hearings dealing with the 9-11 Commission’s recommendations. But, it is not the first hearing that this Committee has had that deals with a number of these issues. Including today’s hearing, the Committee, including through its subcommittees, has held 62 oversight hearings on various aspects of the Intelligence Community’s performance and resource needs. I would note that this is more hearings than the Committee has held in any other calendar year.

This Congress we have held specific hearings on the need for the government to secure the nation and our liberties. We have held hearings on the Intelligence Community’s performance in the run up to military hostilities in Iraq. We have held hearings on the Intelligence Community’s HUMINT (human intelligence) and analytic capabilities. We have held hearings on the IC’s activities in the Global War on Terror, including in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Committee, through its subcommittees have held hearings on the need for improved language capabilities throughout the IC, the availability of biometric technologies to enhance our homeland security, the efforts being taken to more fully integrate the Coast Guard into the IC. We also have studied the need for improved information technology coordination throughout the IC. With respect to the need for linguistic skills and IT coordination or the development of an IT enterprise architecture, the Committee included in its annual intelligence authorization bill for FY 2005, two specific provisions that address the need for better coordination in these areas. The Committee proposed the creation of two high level coordinating authorities within the Office of the Director of Central Intelligence. The Committee has heard about other issues beyond counterterrorism as well. We’ve had hearings on various aspects of counternarcotics, counterintelligence, and counterproliferation, because of course these threats have not abated.

This is the first in a series of hearings dealing with the 9-11 Commission’s recommendations directly, however. It is titled, “9-11 Commission Recommendations: Analysis and Collection, the Requirement for Imagination and Creativity.”

The Commission noted that one of the main failings of the Intelligence Community was a lack of imagination. I am interested in determining how they came to this judgment, what it was they saw that brought them to this finding. I also am wondering how changing the structures of the Intelligence Community, and the Congress, will improve the imagination the Commission thinks is required to abate the terrorist threat. Ultimately, I agree with them, that we need to think more creatively about the threat we face, the enemy we need to defeat.

This Committee is, of course, open to change throughout the Intelligence Community. In fact, a majority of this Committee introduced H.R. 4584, the “Directing Community Integration Act,” in June. This bill seeks to reconstruct the Intelligence Community, under a different organizational construct than what is now operating. Suffice to say, that bill would provide full budget authority for the National Foreign Intelligence Program (NFIP) to the head of the Intelligence Community, would provide the head of the Intelligence Community with enhanced authority in the naming of the heads of the various agencies within the NFIP, and would provide the head of the Intelligence Community certain acquisition and procurement authorities currently held by the head of the CIA. The bill also contemplates a coordinating structure within the office of the head of the Intelligence Community to address the need to manage and mandate integration of purpose by the various elements of the IC for specific issue areas, such as counterterrorism, counternarcotics, counterproliferation, law enforcement coordination, and covert action. Indeed, there are some differences between this bill and the recommended approach of the 9-11 Commission. The fact remains, however, that the principle concepts of one person in charge, with full budget authority across the IC elements; and the need for an integrated focus across the IC for counterterrorism, are present in this bill.

To be fair, and not to steal her thunder, but my distinguished ranking member, together with the Committee Democrats, introduced H.R. 4104, the “Intelligence Community Transformation Act.” That bill seeks change in the structure of how the IC operates, and seeks rightly to tear down stovepipes that might burden our ability to keep us safe. To be sure, there are differences in that approach from our approach and that of the 9-11 Commission. Importantly, however, HR 4104 does not seek to modify any budget authority or personnel authority than that which currently exists in statute. This Committee will explore each of these approaches, and any other that offer constructive approaches to curing what ails the Intelligence Community in order to better secure our future, and deters and disrupts the threat from radical extremists who seek to murder and maim innocents.

This Committee has a responsibility to the dedicated and men and women of the Intelligence Community--professionals all--to ensure that we be thoughtful and deliberative in our efforts, to acknowledge what they do well, to maintain what works, and above all, that while they toil to defend our freedom that we in Congress do no harm.

I want to thank them for their service, dedication, and sacrifice. They work quietly, without the ability to publicly tout success, and with any failure—or even perceived failure—splashed across the front page. I’m sure that the notion of significant changes has many concerned. Changes will come, they are needed.

We are discussing change because our system and structures need to evolve. We are not here because we lack confidence in our Intelligence Community personnel. Simply stated, we are here discussing change because we want them to succeed, we need them to succeed.

I believe that the work we do here should improve the support these officers receive in accomplishing their missions.

Finally, the importance of men and women of the Intelligence Community will remain constant, as will our faith in them.

These are extraordinary times, and while we will act with all appropriate speed, we have a responsibility to ensure that the changes the Committee ultimately proposes improve our security, enhance the functioning of the Intelligence Community, and improve the ability of our policymakers to make well informed decisions.

We cannot afford to make changes blindly, or in unnecessary haste. We can ill afford to rush to judgment. These issues are too critical and too significant. We must pay attention to the details. The unintended consequences of an action we take could wreak havoc upon our ability to protect against the next attack. But, we also have to acknowledge, as many have, that even were we to act tomorrow, we could still be attacked. The enemy is stealthy, and seeks to avoid detection until the moment it strikes. All of our efforts, working as well as they can, may still not be adequate enough to stop every attack, but we need to do everything in our power and within our authority, consistent with the Constitution that we can to protect the nation. This is a fundamental obligation of our government.

I promise to proceed in a non-partisan fashion, placing our desire to protect the United States above political affiliation. We all work under just one flag.

Some may ask why has Intelligence Community reform not occurred until now? I would say that many reforms HAVE taken place over the years. Yet large-scale restructuring has been debated since the early 1990’s but without the necessary consensus—until now.

In the nine-plus years I have had the privilege to serve on the House Intelligence Committee, we have identified several areas in need of reform, including collection efforts similar to what the 9/11 Commission has suggested.

I believe we now have the momentum and the political will needed to tackle the largest issues associated with effective change—including budget and resource realignment.

The Committee expects our witnesses today to discuss the recommendations provided by the 9/11 Commission, and in doing so provide greater insight into the decisions behind these recommendations, the rationale for certain recommendations, their personal views of how these recommendations should be implemented, and specifically how these new structural and policy changes will better protect America and improve analysis and collection.

Finally, I expect our witnesses to address the key questions emerging from the 9/11 Commission’s primary recommendation—namely the creation of the Office of National Intelligence Director (NID). How would that action provide the leadership that the Intelligence Community needs? How will that leadership translate into improved capabilities and information sharing? And finally, will the proposed NID improve US abilities in the art of intelligence? If so, how?