WASHINGTON – The White House is warning lawmakers against the creation of "more layers of bureaucracy" as it considers legislation on intelligence reform.
In a 10-page letter obtained by FOX News, President Bush's National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (search) and Office of Management and Budget Director Josh Bolten set out the administration's stance, saying that it supports the Senate version of the intelligence reform bill, which gives the new national intelligence director "strong" budget authority.
However, the letter to Senate Governmental Affairs Chairwoman Susan Collins (search), R-Maine, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., also states a preference for the House version's provisions that prevent disclosure of the entire intelligence budget to the public.
The Bush administration wants "an effective bill that both Houses can pass and the president can sign into law as soon as possible to meet the nation's security needs," Rice and Bolten wrote.
Congress is in the process of reconciling the two competing reform bills that were created based on recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission. The commission recommended the creation of a national intelligence director position to control almost all of 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.
Commissioners also called for more safeguards at home, such as setting national standards for driver's licenses and other identification, improving "no-fly" and other terrorist watch lists and using more biometric identifiers to screen travelers at ports and borders.
Negotiators are convening on Wednesday, and depending on their success, leadership may call a one-day special session perhaps next week. A lame-duck session after the Nov. 2 election is more likely, however.
"Our charge is to get this done as quickly as possible," Sen. Joe Lieberman (search), D-Conn., ranking Democrat on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, said before Congress left town to campaign. "There is still some hope that we can come back the week of the 23rd and try to adopt the conference report and send it to the president."
The letter from Rice and Bolten warns a number of times against the creation of "more layers of bureaucracy" and looks to curb any possibility of placing restraints on executive authority. For instance, the Bush administration opposes a requirement in the Senate bill that the general counsel for the national intelligence director be appointed from civilian fields. The letter reminds that the president should be able to "pick the best qualified candidate" for the job.
The letter also warns lawmakers not to overdo the new management structure of the intelligence community.
"The administration is gravely concerned about the excessive and unnecessary detail in the structure of the Office of the NID included in both the House and the Senate bills. The voluminous and bureaucratic requirements create confused chains of command, diminish accountability and foster a risk-adverse culture," the letter reads.
The White House does not support giving full hiring and firing authority to the NID, but does want the NID to have some say in appointments.
"The administration supports giving the NID a role in the appointment of key individuals in the intelligence community," says the letter. While supporting the Senate version of the bill in this regard, the letter notes "constitutionally problematic" provisions that the administration would like to work on with the Senate.
Collins, along with Lieberman, pushed bipartisan legislation through the Senate that was endorsed by the Sept. 11 commission. On Monday, Collins said she was pleased with the administration's tone.
"The letter sent by the White House to me and Congressman Hoekstra is further evidence that the president is eager to sign a bill that will implement a major reorganization of our intelligence system and make our nation safer. The recommendations put forth by Condolezza Rice and Josh Bolten will be considered carefully as conferees meet tomorrow and continue to negotiate this important legislation," she said in a statement.
The Senate version conflicts with House legislation, which includes additional government anti-terrorism powers and barriers against illegal immigration.
The House bill would expand the number of aliens subject to quick deportation by increasing the amount of time they would have to be in the United States to be exempted from speedy deportation.
It also would force asylum seekers accused by their home countries of being involved in terrorist or guerrilla activities to prove that their race, religion, nationality or political opinion will be a "central reason" for their persecution if deported.
The Senate has refused to consider those provisions as part of its bill. House leaders say they will insist on their version.
FOX News' James Rosen and Trish Turner contributed to this report.