WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., expressed their support Wednesday for the President’s request in his supplemental budget for $250 million to start up the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Collins and Lieberman co-authored legislation last year that created the ODNI in an effort to improve coordination among the government’s 15 intelligence agencies. The Senators said the DNI’s office must be established immediately to place someone in charge of the nation’s intelligence capabilities, particularly in time of war.

“The House and Senate passed this legislation overwhelmingly at the request of the President because everyone recognized the need for a strong intelligence chief to improve communication and coordination within the intelligence community and avoid the kinds of mistakes that were made leading up to the September 11th attacks,” the Senators said in a joint statement. “We strongly urge the Senate to fulfill the President’s request.” The President’s request asked for $250 million for the “initial establishment of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and other projects, including construction of a new facility to house the ODNI, expanded National Counterterrorism Center, and other intelligence community elements. Funding would also support additional information sharing and horizontal integration efforts.” Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee cut the request by 64 percent, to $89 million. In comparison, the House of Representatives retained the full amount of the President’s request. The White House issued a statement of administration policy Tuesday, concurrent with the confirmation hearing of John Negroponte as the first director of national intelligence, reiterating its strong desire for the full $250 million. The President signed the Collins-Lieberman Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act into law December 17, 2004, setting into motion the most comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s intelligence agencies in 50 years. The Senate had approved the bill by a vote of 89 to 2, and the House of Representatives voted 336 to 75 in favor. Among other things, the legislation created a strong DNI to be the one person in charge of the Intelligence Community and the principal intelligence advisor to the President. The DNI’s authorities include significant control over the national intelligence budget, transferring personnel and funds in order to meet emerging threats, and tasking collection and analysis of national intelligence.