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Powell With Senators Collins Lieberman & Sec Ridge

Remarks With Senator Collins, Senator Lieberman, and Secretary Ridge


Secretary Colin L. Powell
Stakeout After Testimony Before Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs
Washington, DC
September 13, 2004

(12:00 p.m. EDT)

CHAIRMAN COLLINS: Good afternoon. The Governmental Affairs Committee has just completed its seventh hearing examining proposals to reorganize and strengthen our intelligence community. Today we're very pleased to have heard testimony from Secretary Powell and Secretary Ridge.

Each of them gave a very strong endorsement to the creation of a National Intelligence Director that is sufficiently powerful to make a difference in improving the quality of intelligence.

Each believes that the NID should have budget authority, which we know is key to effectiveness.

It was an interesting hearing. I believe that with each of the hearings that the Governmental Affairs Committee has held, the case for proceeding this year, before we adjourn with significant reform of our intelligence community grows. We do plan to mark up a bill next week and to bring it to the Senate floor the following week.

Certainly, the strong testimony by two such outstanding leaders in our government in the war against terrorism adds to the momentum of the committee's efforts.

SENATOR LIEBERMAN: I'm going to say a very quick, amen. I agree with everything the Chairman has said.

Secretary Powell and Secretary Ridge gave great testimony today -- great in the sense that it was very helpful to the committee and I agree with Senator Collins. It just strengthens the argument for the creation of a strong National Intelligence Director, and that means giving that director budgetary authority. And both of these gentlemen testified to the fact that there really is nobody playing that role today.

No place, as Secretary Powell said, where there is a joint intelligence council, where the key consumers and producers of intelligence, Secretary of Defense, State, Homeland Security, Energy, Treasury can sit together so that they're coordinating on behalf of the national security.

Second important point to make, and I think Secretary Powell's testimony, because of the unique perspective of State, makes it very strongly is that as we create a new National Intelligence Director, a strong NID, we've got to make sure that that National Intelligence Director is satisfying the needs of all of the government agencies for high quality intelligence. What I mean is, the war on terrorism is our focus, but Secretary Powell as Secretary of State has to make judgments every day -- today, on the North Korean explosion -- and give advice to the President of the United States. And to do that, he needs first-rate intelligence from all the sources in our government without limitation or without hesitation.

The testimony that these two gentlemen have given us today is going to guide our committee as we draft this bill. And Chairman Collins is setting a very rapid pace. And it's one that I believe with some confidence the rest of the Congress will follow, and that we're going to achieve this reform of our intelligence system before we adjourn. And that's going to be to the surprise of most observers, but it's going to be to the benefit of our national security. Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: I just might say that it's been a pleasure for Secretary Ridge and I to testify today and present the President's ideas with respect to a National Intelligence Director. The President is solidly in support of this idea and we'll be working closely with the Congress on implementing legislation. And I want to thank the senators who were present, and especially the Chairman, for all of the courtesies extended, and frankly, for all the hard work they are putting in to finishing this work, as soon as possible.

And so, I'd like to just thank you, Madame Chairman, for your work and Senator Lieberman, for your work.

SECRETARY RIDGE: Just very briefly, as you know the Department of Homeland Security is not even two years old yet, but we do have a unique niche within the intelligence community. We are a producer of some intelligence that's obviously critical to the war against global terrorism.

We're also a consumer. And both from the production, but particularly, from the consumption side, having a strong National Intelligence Director, with budget authority, we believe will significantly improve what has already been an improving environment in terms of access, but give us an opportunity to sit down more frequently, and frankly, in a much more comprehensive fashion with our partners in the intelligence community to effect the kind of information flow that we need every day to secure our country even better.

I do want to echo Secretary Powell's thoughts of, and praise of this committee and the leadership of Senator Collins and Senator Lieberman. We appreciate the focus on what is, as the President has said, the most important and critical mass, most important element in the war against terrorism -- good information that the right people can act upon and the zeal and the energy they're bringing into this whole process of reviewing the 9/11 Commission report, entertaining the President's Initiative, as well as their own, will certainly facilitate this effort and we thank them.

QUESTION: Thank you.

2004/971

[End]

Released on September 13, 2004


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