WASHINGTON – Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Friday issued the following statement regarding the resignation of Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair:
“We look forward to speaking with Admiral Blair to better understand why he is leaving his position as Director of National Intelligence. We want to know whether he thinks the DNI needs more statutory authority than it currently has. Or, as Governor Tom Kean and Representative Lee Hamilton, the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the 9/11 Commission, have testified, is the issue that the DNI needs stronger Presidential support in order for him to exercise the authorities that the law already provides?
“The position of DNI was created by landmark legislation that went through the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in 2004. We based the legislation on recommendations from the 9/11 Commission, led by Governor Tom Kean and Rep. Lee Hamilton. The Commission’s single most important recommendation was that a single person needed to lead the 16 intelligence agencies spread among multiple government departments.
“We believe that Admiral Blair and his predecessors as DNI have made important contributions to improving the management, integration, and effectiveness of our intelligence community.
“But efforts to transform the intelligence community are still a work in progress.
“ Several terrorist attacks against our country have been prevented in recent months, and the intelligence and law enforcement communities deserve credit for that. However, the terrorist attack at Fort Hood and the failed attacks in Detroit and Times Square clearly illustrate the need for more effective coordination of our counterterrorism efforts. We simply must do a better job of detecting and analyzing potential threats to the homeland.
“Earlier this year the Committee held several hearings reviewing the status of intelligence reform, five years after passage of that legislation, including a hearing with Admiral Blair.
“The hearings reinforced our belief that while the DNI has strong authorities, those authorities may need to be strengthened – particularly in the areas of intelligence agency budgets and the selection of the intelligence leaders. Also, any perceived ambiguities regarding the DNI’s authorities must be resolved. Bureaucratic obstacles to intelligence reform and the evolution of the terrorist threat are such that these changes may be necessary.
“We also think we should make crystal clear that the DNI has authority over the CIA, and over elements of the intelligence community within the Department of Defense and other Cabinet agencies.
“Bureaucratic obstacles to intelligence reform and the evolution of the terrorist threat are such that these changes may be necessary.
“A crucial element in the success of the DNI is leadership. Given the historical resistance to change within the intelligence community, the DNI needs to be forceful and assertive and he needs the full support of the President going forward – or even the best of leaders will not be able to succeed in the position.
“The President now needs to nominate someone whom he fully trusts, and whom he will fully back in interagency disputes with other parts of the intelligence community.”