From the Pentagon to the CIA, U.S. intelligence agencies can expect tougher congressional scrutiny, promises Rep. Dave McCurdy (D-Okla.), the new chairman of the House intelligence committee.

"I don't think the committee has been aggressive enough," he said in an interview. "I intend to reestablish our credibility as an oversight committee. We are not going to be a shrinking violet. I intend to stand up to Judge {William H.} Webster," the CIA director.

McCurdy, variously described as a moderate to conservative Democrat, has already served crisp notice of his intentions. Over the last few weeks, while serving as the panel's acting chairman, he has announced a firm practice of swearing in every witness, lectured the CIA for being late to one briefing and notified the staff director to start looking for another job.

"He's done a very positive job," McCurdy said of staff director Daniel A. Childs Jr., a former CIA official. "But I told him I will be forming my own team." It will be headed by John G. Keliher, a retired Army colonel with a doctorate in Russian studies.

The practice of swearing in witnesses, McCurdy said, will serve as an antidote to the longstanding practice of U.S. intelligence officials avoiding direct answers to questions that are not precisely phrased and serving up generalities when details are desired.

"I don't want to have to anticipate the answers to my questions," he said. "I don't want to be in the habit of reading between the lines."

For instance, McCurdy said, the first Persian Gulf crisis briefing he got as acting chairman produced only "broad generalities. At the end, I said, 'Okay, that is the last we will see of that kind of briefing. Here's what I want to hear at the next.' I listed topics from meteorology in the gulf to targets, assessments of the chain of command, biographies and personalities."

McCurdy said the first set of hearings will be devoted to nothing less than reorganization of the entire intelligence community. He regards it as an urgently needed step to prepare U.S. intelligence for the demands of the post-Cold War world. And he says he thinks he can make progress on that goal even with the preoccupations caused by the gulf war. Some of the changes, he said, should improve our knowledge in that part of the world.

The CIA is already drawing up blueprints for new requirements in the decade ahead, but McCurdy said these may not be sufficient if they simply involve the assignment of old hands to new tasks.

Congress and the administration "may go down the path totally together," McCurdy said. "It may be simple. But it is not going to be enough just to change the names on the doors or the blocks on an organization chart. There are so many additional areas that need attention. The number of Arabic speakers {at the CIA} is abysmal. The number of area specialists for the next decade is equally abysmal. That's disgraceful."

McCurdy said he expects Webster to side with the CIA bureaucracy and be reluctant to endorse organizational changes.

"I think he is one of the boys," the new chairman said. "I am going to give him an opportunity to respond. If he doesn't, I will take that as an opportunity to make the debate more public."

"Reorganization," McCurdy said, means more than just the CIA -- it's the intelligence community across the board, including the enormously expensive and frequently duplicative military intelligence agencies in the Defense Department.

One thing he wants to concentrate on, he said, is "the whole procurement process in intelligence, for large systems."

"I'm not sure it is done as competitively as it should be," he said. "Take satellite procurement, for example . . . and leasing rather than purchasing real estate. Purchasing can be more cost effective in the long run. Under the guise of intelligence, you can get away with a lot of things."

A 40-year-old lawyer from Norman, Okla., McCurdy made himself a procurement expert early in his congressional career. Elected in 1980 after wearing out two pairs of cowboy boots crisscrossing his 8,000-square-mile district, he was awarded a seat on the Armed Services Committee and soon won assignment as chairman of a special military procurement panel. The appointment came as a result of the brash freshman's steady criticisms of Pentagon failures to document how it was spending its money and pointed hints that Congress was not asking enough questions.

In 1985, McCurdy took on the House power structure when he engineered a successful drive to oust an aging Armed Services Committee chairman and replace him with Rep. Les Aspin (D-Wis.). They have been allies ever since and McCurdy is counting on Aspin for help with the military aspects of any intelligence community reorganization.

Other House intelligence committee members say reorganization, a goal that also has been endorsed by Senate intelligence committee Chairman David L. Boren (D-Okla.), will be impossible while the war continues, but McCurdy said he wants to get started now. He said he may even try holding the annual intelligence authorization bill -- which empowers the intelligence agencies to spend their money -- hostage to progress on the reorganization front.

"I am going to push, pull, harangue, beat and cajole to get them to move," McCurdy said. "I am not adverse to using legislation to get it done. There should not be an authorization bill if we don't see progress."

McCurdy's new role in the House did not come without a fight. Some liberal House Democrats worked hard to persuade House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) to reappoint Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Calif.) as chairman by extending his term of service on the committee -- and the terms of all members -- from six to eight years.

According to congressional sources, there was a campaign against McCurdy as well, led by friends of Beilenson on the Rules Committee, and it had two themes. One centered on an apparent arrangement with former House speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.). McCurdy, who had served five years on the intelligence committee, dropped off for a year, and then was reappointed by Wright in 1989 to another six year-term. With the last appointment, he became the second-ranking Democrat on the panel. That automatically put him in line for the chairmanship after Beilenson.

McCurdy's Democratic opponents argued that the arrangement bent House rules too far. They also complained that McCurdy's political views did not reflect those of the Democratic Caucus majority and that the appointment would put both House and Senate intelligence committees in charge of Oklahomans who had supported military aid to the Nicaraguan contras.

"There were a number of members who went to Foley to express deep reservations {about McCurdy} for those reasons," said one House member. Another member said that Beilenson made his case for longer terms at a private meeting with the speaker last month, but got no encouragement.

McCurdy said only that "it was the speaker's call." Congressional sources said McCurdy argued that he had the seniority, expertise and energy to do the job. Since making his decision, Foley has appointed four liberals to vacancies on the panel.

The speaker's decision to keep the terms at six years also forced Rep. Henry J. Hyde (Ill.), the committee's ranking Republican, to step down. The combative Hyde, some members thought, had too much clout on the committee.

"Beilenson is a very nice guy," one source said, "but he deferred to the {intelligence} agencies. Even if McCurdy is more conservative, the Republicans will probably not be in charge anywhere near like they have been."

Beilenson takes exception to such talk. "There is more mutual trust now between the intelligence community and the intelligence oversight committees than perhaps there ever has been," he said. "But people should not mistake a good personal relationship with being soft on the agencies. This year {fiscal 1991} is the first year the intelligence budget was lower than the year before. We were very tough on them in a nice way."

McCurdy is more intrepid. Friends and associates agree that confrontations are inevitable. "I think you'll see it when it gets to a juncture where McCurdy thinks certain information the agencies don't want to produce is essential for the committee to be able to exercise its oversight responsibilities," said one associate. "McCurdy will push that issue right to the edge of the envelope."