Intelligence Requires Team Effort, Clapper Tells Senate
By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 20, 2010 James R. Clapper, Jr., the undersecretary of defense for intelligence and President Barack Obama’s nominee as director of national intelligence, said during his confirmation hearing today that intelligence is a team effort and the DNI is in a unique position to ensure that.
Clapper, a retired Air Force general, told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that he has served in many capacities during his 46 years in intelligence: in the military, as a federal executive, and as a contractor. “I have tried hard in each to serve in the best interest of the nation,” he said. “If confirmed, I will continue to have that as my central focus.”
Clapper, a Vietnam War veteran, said he had planned to leave public service whenever Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates leaves the Pentagon. But, he said, he was honored by the president’s confidence in him and couldn’t refuse. “I’ve always been a duty guy at heart,” he said.
If confirmed, Clapper will be the fourth director of national intelligence since the position was created in 2005. During his hearing, he faced questions about whether the office creates duplication among the federal government’s 16 intelligence agencies, and whether the position allows for clear oversight of intelligence.
“One man’s duplication is another man’s competitive analysis,” Clapper said. He added that some duplication serves as important checks and balances, and some of what appears to be duplication isn’t.
As for oversight authority, Clapper said he believes the position “already does have considerable authority, both implicit and explicit.” If confirmed, he said, “It would be my intent to push the envelope to see where those authorities could be extended." He added that broader oversight of spending on national intelligence is one example where authority could be extened.
Clapper said he would push to delegate areas outside of the DNI office, but that he would retain significant work. “I would not have agreed to take this position on if I were going to be just a figurehead or a hood ornament,” he said. “I believe this position is necessary. There needs to be a clear, defined leader of the community.”
Asked about likely budget cuts to intelligence, Clapper compared the impending drawdown in the community from the post-Sept. 11, 2001 buildup as analogous to that following the end of the Cold War. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, when he was director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Clapper said, “we were on a mandate to reduce the community by 20 percent.”
The community was well into that drawdown when terrorists attacked the United States. The most efficient way to rebuild quickly was through contracting, Clapper said.
“In my view, as part of that historical pattern, the pendulum is going to swing back,” he said.
Clapper said metrics need to be created to determine where the community needs contractors and where it needs to apply limits in contracting budgets. “We need organizing principles as to where contractors are appropriate and where they are not,” he said.
In other highlights from the hearing, Clapper said:
- He and Gates have discussed the possibility of removing intelligence from the Defense Department budget, a move that could reduce Defense overhead and strengthen the DNI’s ability to manage funding in the intelligence community.
- The Defense Department and DNI would share oversight of the three intelligence agencies that support military operations.
- It is critical for the director of national intelligence to have congressional support, and that such oversight should be equal between the Senate and House.
- The U.S. intelligence community also must focus on emerging threats, such as those coming out of Africa.
- That intelligence budgets should be more open: “The American people are entitled to know the totality of the investment we make each year in intelligence.”
- He believes the DNI has the authority to overrule the CIA director.
Senators repeatedly referenced a Washington Post series of articles this week that was critical of lack of oversight for the intelligence community, and asked Clapper his opinion. He replied that he disagrees with the implication that the community is out of control, and said its reliance on congressional appropriations ensures that.
“I believe it is under control,” he said. “The common denominator is appropriations, which are fairly exact. In the end, the intelligence community can do many things, but printing more money is not one of them. So, that does serve as means of control.”