WASHINGTON – The new National Intelligence Director, John Negroponte (search), is not yet heeding a top recommendation of the Sept. 11 commission (search) to tear down barriers that divided U.S. spy agencies, one of the panel's Republican commissioners said Monday.
As part of a panel discussion about the progress of intelligence changes, former Navy Secretary John Lehman (search) said Negroponte has two other full-time jobs: serving as the president's chief intelligence adviser and managing the 15 U.S. intelligence agencies.
"So far, it's still early days, but the job that we on the 9/11 commission were most concerned about — we really didn't care about the first two so much — has not yet been addressed," Lehman said, referring to the commission's recommendations that focused on breaking down the divisions between spy agencies and "building a new culture."
Lehman asked other panelists how Negroponte, just seven weeks on the job, should divide his time. A former head of the National Security Agency, retired Adm. William O. Studeman (search), said Negroponte's first job has to be leading and transforming the intelligence community. "It was a failure of leadership that got us here," he said.
Negroponte's office did not have an immediate comment Monday.
Lehman's criticism came as part of a series of summer events held by former Sept. 11 commission members who are examining what they call the government's unfinished agenda. The panel has no formal role in deciding U.S. policy, but will issue a privately financed report card in July on how the government has responded to the commission's nearly one-year-old report.
Monday's two-hour briefing on the challenges facing the new intelligence director covered issues ranging from whether Negroponte is organizing his office's structure appropriately to his first turf war with Congress.
Last week, House Armed Services Chairman Duncan Hunter (search), R-Calif., tried to limit Negroponte's ability to move intelligence personnel between agencies, pressing for legislation that would have given relevant committee chairmen like himself the power to block such moves. Hunter is considered a staunch advocate for the Defense Department, which absorbs more than 80 percent of the intelligence budget.
Rather than accepting a change in the law, Negroponte compromised with Hunter and promised to meet with him personally before shifting Defense Department employees. Negroponte's office has called his meeting with the chairman "very satisfactory."
On Monday, California Rep. Jane Harman (search), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Negroponte's victory will set a precedent. "We did win this battle. It remains to be seen if we've won the war," said Harman, a leading opponent of Hunter's provision.
Lehman said the issue goes to the heart of why Congress also needs to make its own reforms. Harman agreed that lawmakers are "way behind" on adopting the blueprint offered by the Sept. 11 Commission, including enhanced authority for oversight committees.
She also said the information Congress receives remains inadequate. However, Harman said, since Negroponte has taken over she has seen an increased effort to explain the lessons learned on the botched intelligence regarding Iraq's purported weapons of mass destruction (search).