House Democrats propose intell transformation

House Democrats introduced a bill early this month that would transform intelligence agencies by charging one person with their oversight and connecting them through a consolidated communications network.

Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) introduced the Intelligence Transformation Bill April 1, which calls for the establishment of an integrated intelligence network to provide communications capabilities "to all elements of the intelligence community," the creation of a director of national intelligence position with statutory and budget authority over all aspects of the intelligence community, and development of a center to collect and analyze data about weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The legislation was co-sponsored by all the Democrats on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. However, it has no Republican co-sponsors.

The bill came as the commission reviewing the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks heard debates about a proposal to create a unified terrorist agency.

Harman's measure proposes collaboration in the collection and analysis of intelligence, modeled after the changes to

the military that Congress mandated

in the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, which required the armed services to work together.

In addition, the bill would create a technological infrastructure to improve intelligence analysis and governmentwide collaboration. It would create a new WMD Proliferation Threat Integration Center to integrate collection and analysis of the threat of such weapons, according to a statement issued by Harman.

The center would comprise elements of the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the Energy, Homeland Security and State departments.

The proposal to appoint one person to oversee the intelligence agencies is not a new one, but it has never received much favor. John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, which monitors space and military programs, said several attempts to create such an office during the past decade have failed.

However, Michael Kush, an Army analyst at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, said he thinks the idea of a single intelligence leader could work.

Control of intelligence agencies is not a new problem, Kush said. "This country has had disparate intell organizations going back to the Revolution. But this could link intelligence efforts for homeland security, national security and national

defense."

Because no Republicans co-sponsored the bill, it probably will not get far in the legislative process, he said. However, it must be examined carefully in "this charged political climate," he added.

But the proposed creation of the WMD Proliferation Threat Integration Center could create some hot-button topics for Democrats to debate during the next seven months leading up to the presidential election, Pike said.

"There is zero chance whatsoever of this bill getting passed," Pike said. "But most bills that get introduced don't get passed. Some bills are introduced for reasons

other than passage."

This particular bill, he said, "creates a vehicle for Democrats to talk publicly about things they say the administration should be doing."

The bill said the center should be created to determine the "credibility and reliability of sources and methods of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

The integrated intelligence network, according to the bill, would ensure that communications among intelligence agencies would never again be as problematic as they were before the 2001 terrorist attacks. One of the most consistent criticisms of the intelligence community since the attacks is that agencies didn't share important information to predict or prevent them.

"There is still a technical gap among the intelligence agencies," Kush said. "Interoperability and its role in information sharing has been an issue for decades."

The director of national intelligence and the Defense Department secretary would be responsible for policies and procedures relating to interoperability, connectivity and security.

"The terrorists and the enemies of the United States will not wait until after November to plot their attacks — nor will they check our party registration before they launch those attacks against us," Harman said. "We cannot afford to wait. This task is urgent."

In his 2003 State of the Union Address, President Bush ordered the creation of a terrorist threat integration center "to merge and analyze all threat information in a single location." The TTIC is in development.

"With the transformation of [DOD] under way, it only makes sense to transform intelligence, too," Kush said.

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