By Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 2, 2010; 8:55 PM
NEW ORLEANS - Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. said Tuesday that he has won a "conceptual agreement" to remove the $53 billion national intelligence budget from Pentagon control and place it under his purview by 2013, as part of an effort to enhance his authority over the U.S. intelligence community.
"To me, it's a win-win," he told an audience at the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation conference here. Clapper's deal with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates would take "$50 billion off the top line" of the Pentagon budget and give the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) "more authority and oversight" of the budget. The $27 billion military intelligence budget would remain under the Defense Department, Clapper said.
Proponents of intelligence reform have complained that Congress did not give the ODNI enough control over spending and other levers of power. Officials said placing the national intelligence budget under Clapper's control would make it easier for him to ensure that funds are being spent in accordance with presidential and congressional priorities.
But one congressional aide urged caution. "This is an issue that does not involve only the executive branch," said the aide, who works for the Senate Armed Services Committee, which authorizes the money in the intelligence budget.
Clapper, in an interview after his remarks, said the move would not change anything "in the oversight" relationships with Congress but would give him administrative control over the national intelligence budget, which includes money for the CIA and the National Security Agency.
"Historically, the national intelligence budget has been buried in the defense budget for security reasons," he said, referring to the practice of keeping secret the size of the intelligence budget.
Now that the intelligence budget top lines - both military and non-military - are public this year for the first time, that is no longer necessary, he said, adding that the details will still be classified.
The move would mean "we don't have to go through the [military] services to find someplace on the DOD tree to hang money in order to give it to an intelligence agency," Clapper said. The change would bring more internal "transparency" to the budget so he can more easily see where money is, he said.
Mark M. Lowenthal, a former senior CIA official and former staff director of the House Intelligence Committee, said the move would increase Clapper's authority over the intelligence budget.
"If it's in the defense budget, he doesn't have total control over it," Lowenthal said, because defense officials can say, "Please find somewhere else to hide your money." Now that there is no need to hide the top-line number inside the defense budget, he said, the lines of authority can be clear. "The national intelligence budget belongs at the DNI, and there's no question about it."
The CIA referred questions about the budget change to Clapper's office.
Clapper told the audience he was consolidating the traditionally separate collection and analysis missions under one deputy, Robert Cardillo.
With his trademark wry humor, he also said he is bringing back "a certain unnamed intelligence officer from Afghanistan" who wrote a report critical of intelligence gathering there; this officer will help improve intelligence sharing among federal agencies and with state and local agencies. "Hey buddy," Clapper quipped, "you can help me fix it." The "buddy" is Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, who wrote his report for the Center for a New American Security. He will become an assistant director at the ODNI.
Clapper said he is collapsing the roles of national intelligence officers and mission managers under "a single template" to eliminate duplication. There will be 14 or 20 intelligence managers who will be responsible for regional or subject areas, including a new national intelligence manager for cyber-security to "clarify" the intelligence community's role. "I do not believe that the intelligence community is responsible for cyber-security of all the country," Clapper said.
Lowenthal said Clapper is "trying to slim things down" at the ODNI. "There's a lot of unnecessary clutter," he said.
The moves amount to "tweaks" of his office, said Clapper, who is known for restructuring agencies. "I don't do reorganizations anymore," he said. "I do tweaks."