WASHINGTON – President Bush set out to reassure CIA Director Porter Goss (search) Thursday amid news reports that the new intelligence chief is overwhelmed by his workload and the massive reforms being implemented in the intelligence community.
A CIA spokesman told FOX News that Goss is handling several major responsibilities, among them being in charge of intelligence during a time of war and a major overhaul at the agency that aims to dramatically increase the number of agents and analysts.
Goss, who recently testified on Capitol Hill during Congress' annual review of worldwide threats, currently covers the responsibilities that will fall to the new director of national intelligence (DNI). That position was created by law at the end of last year and Bush has nominated current U.S. Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte (search) for the job. Negroponte has not been confirmed by the Senate yet.
Bush said he went to CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., to assure CIA employees of their vital intelligence-gathering role even though the agency's director will no longer be the lead U.S. intelligence officer, a status enjoyed by the director of central intelligence for over 60 years.
"I know there is some uncertainty ... I'm confident the process will work," Bush said, adding that he came to the agency to assure agents that the reforms are intended to make their jobs easier, not more difficult.
"The reforms will help the CIA do its job better," Bush told reporters after a tour of the spy agency.
The president repeated remarks made earlier in the day during the ceremonial oath of office by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff (search). In both instances, Bush said the pressure is on Al Qaeda and its leader Usama bin Laden, the man charged with planning the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"We spend everyday gathering information" on bin Laden and other terror leaders and the intelligence community has had "great successes" in trying to tear down the terror network, Bush said.
The president also repeated calls for Syria to get its 15,000 troops out of Lebanon as soon as possible. On Thursday, Saudi officials said they also encouraged Syrian President Bashir Assad to remove his forces.
"The message is loud and clear" from the United States, Europe and Russia that "it is time for Syria to get out," Bush said.
Overhauling the intelligence agency may be easier legislated than done. Speaking at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Wednesday, Goss said intelligence-reform legislation created based on recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission was ambiguous about his future role. Critics have warned that ambiguity of purpose is one of the problems the intelligence community faced before the Sept. 11 attacks.
"It's got a huge amount of ambiguity in it. I don't know by law what my direct relationship is with John Negroponte, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (search) or other top officials involved with intelligence," he said.
He added that he spends five hours a day preparing the presidential daily brief, an executive summary by the intelligence community of threats facing the United States.
"The jobs I'm being asked to do, the five hats that I wear, are too much for this mortal," Goss said. "I'm a little amazed at the workload."
The presidential daily brief will fall to Negroponte, who is currently in Iraq wrapping up his duties. The DNI's role has been described as one of a gatekeeper who decides what threat information makes it to the president's desk.
Bush said he discussed Goss' concerns with him during his meeting, and stressed that he doesn't want an "interruption of intelligence and there won't be."
But the intelligence reform law does not spell out all of the DNI's responsibilities. For example, it does not say how control will be shared between intelligence in and out of the Defense Department, which until now has controlled roughly 80 percent of total intelligence spending. The bill says the DNI will work in consultation with Pentagon officials on how to budget themselves.
Goss did not take aim at Negroponte, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. In fact, Negroponte and Goss attended Yale University at the same time, Goss said.
"I hold him in the very highest regard," he said. "The intelligence community is going to be strengthened and unified and more effective than it has ever been."
That's one of the objectives Bush hopes will be achieved with Negroponte, who could be confirmed in the next six weeks or so. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Negroponte and Goss "have a good working relationship.
"I think everybody understands the importance of the reforms we're working to put into place," McClellan said. "There are many parts" to the legislation "and we're moving forward on that to make sure that this is an integrated effort where everybody is focused on the same goal of doing all we can to protect the American people."
The job responsibilities of the director of central intelligence and national intelligence are among the objectives "we'll be working through as we move forward to implement the reforms that were passed in the legislation," McClellan added.
The CIA spokesman told FOX News that Goss sees a tremendous need for the DNI given the massive changes that are coming. Once Negroponte is in place, the spokesman said Goss believes "a lot of the ambiguity will disappear."
FOX News' Catherine Herridge and The Associated Press contributed to this report.