CIA-Like Counterterror Center Urged
Despite this effort, support for major reform appears thin. President Bush is not backing it and has given yet another commission until March to make recommendations about changes. The upcoming presidential and congressional elections and a six-week legislative vacation are stealing Congress's attention.
Even when all eyes turn to intelligence reform once again, another formidable obstacle remains: The commission's proposal would require some congressional committees to relinquish power to other congressional committees. The commission, in fact, calls for a complete reorganization of congressional oversight.
Congress should create a joint committee for intelligence or create House and Senate committees that combine the authorizing and appropriate responsibilities, it says. Members should serve without terms, as they do now. Department of Homeland Security officials currently appear before 88 congressional committees and subcommittees
Commission Chairman Thomas H. Kean, a former governor of New Jersey, said the recommendations propose "changing around government in a way that takes power away from some people, and that's very tough in this town."
The commission compared its proposals for "joint" or "unified" intelligence collection, analysis, planning and operations to the U.S. military's successful reforms under the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986. The act, opposed at the time by every service secretary, forced competing military services to work together. But the reforms profoundly affected only two congressional committees.
"My experience in politics is when someone is asked to give up something, they come up with all sorts of reasons not to do it," Kerrey said.
Another major reason that the commission's reform proposal may go nowhere is that neither Congress nor the administration has come close to agreeing on what other changes should be made to the intelligence community. On Tuesday, for instance, the Senate intelligence panel held a rare public session on reform, taking testimony from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on a law she proposes to create an intelligence chief. The proposal received a skeptical response.
"A simple solution would be to make the secretary of defense the head of all intelligence because [the Defense Department] has all the resources," said Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.). Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said: "The wheels of change grind exceedingly slow . . . even if we come up with a rational approach."
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