WASHINGTON – House Republicans plan to follow President Bush's lead and reject the Sept. 11 commission's recommendation to strip the Pentagon of control over its spy shops in favor of a new national intelligence director (search) with hiring, firing and spending control.
The White House gave Congress legislative language Thursday that detailed its ideas about a national intelligence director. The House's majority Republicans will use the administration version as their starting point, said Stuart Roy, spokesman for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas.
"The administration's viewpoint will be the driving force ... in the House bill," Roy said Friday. "It may not be 100 percent the way they sent it, but it will certainly move in that direction."
Senate leaders want a stronger intelligence director.
"The administration's bill is not as comprehensive as the proposal we have already announced, but it nevertheless helps to maintain momentum toward getting comprehensive intelligence reform accomplished this year," Sens. Susan Collins (search), R-Maine, and Joseph Lieberman (search), D-Conn., the Senate Governmental Affairs chairwoman and ranking Democrat, said in a statement.
The Sept. 11 commission recommended creation of a national intelligence director to control almost all the nation's 15 intelligence agencies, saying the agencies did not work together properly to stop the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York City and Washington. They also endorsed giving that position full budgetary control and hiring and firing powers to make sure the spy agencies listen to the director's orders.
Officials in the White House, the House and Senate have said the military should maintain control of intelligence agencies that provide the Pentagon exclusively with information. That would leave the intelligence director control over only nonmilitary intelligence.
The proposed White House bill says the national intelligence director would "serve as the head of the United States Intelligence Community and act as the principal adviser to the president."
The intelligence director would control agencies under the National Foreign Intelligence Program (search) but would only "participate" in setting military agency budgets.
The director also would lack complete control over the nonmilitary agencies, holding only "guidance for developing the NFIP budgets," the White House bill proposes.
The legislation also says the director would have to get White House approval to transfer money. The intelligence director would "have the authority to transfer or reprogram NFIP funds among appropriations available for the NFIP, as necessary, with the approval of the director of the Office of Management and Budget," the bill said,
The new director will be able to control hiring only in the lower levels of the intelligence community, but the White House legislation would keep control of presidential appointments. "Any recommendation to the president to nominate or appoint an individual to that position shall be accompanied by the recommendation of the national intelligence director," the legislation says.
House leaders hope to have a bill ready for introduction by Tuesday. Committees would take up legislation soon thereafter.
At least eight committees will deal with separate parts of the commission recommendations, and the legislation will come together on the House floor before the end of the month.
The Senate's bill deals primarily with the 9/11 commission's recommendation and will be amended on the Senate floor to introduce other recommendations.
Differences would have to be worked out in a negotiating committee, and both chambers would have to endorse the changes before sending the bill to the president.
House and Senate leaders are committed to trying to pass the legislation before the Nov. 2 elections.