Order Code RS22112
April 11, 2005
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Director of National Intelligence: Statutory
Richard A Best, Jr.; Alfred Cumming; and Todd Masse
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade and Domestic Social Policy
In passing the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (P.L.
108-458) in late 2004, Congress approved the most comprehensive reform of the U.S.
Intelligence Community since its establishment over 50 years ago. Principal among
enacted changes was the establishment of a new position of the Director of National
Intelligence (DNI) to manage the Intelligence Community. Some observers have
questioned whether the new statute provides the DNI the necessary authorities to
effectively manage the Community. In examining the DNI’s authorities, it is clear that
they are substantially stronger than those held by the former Director of Central
Intelligence (DCI), but whether the DNI has sufficient management authority to
implement mandated reforms will depend on several factors. They include the DNI’s
determination to assert his new powers, the extent to which the DNI receives
presidential and congressional support, and the DNI’s ability to successfully establish
a transparent intelligence budget process that will permit him to make and effectively
enforce informed budget decisions. This suggests close and continuous congressional
oversight of the reform process. This Report will be updated as new information
On March 17, 2005, President Bush forwarded to the Senate the nomination of
Ambassador John Negroponte to fill the position of Director of National Intelligence
(DNI) established by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (P.L.
108-458; hereafter, the Intelligence Reform Act). There has been considerable media
speculation as to whether the new DNI will have the authority necessary to effectively
manage the Intelligence Community, which has long been viewed by many observers as
more of a loose confederation of 15 separate intelligence entities than an integrated
community. However, even if the degree of the DNI’s enhanced authority remains
uncertain, the Director’s responsibilities are clearer than have been those of Directors of
Central Intelligence (DCIs).
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Historically, the DCI has had three primary responsibilities that are codified in the
National Security Act, as amended. First, the DCI has been responsible for providing
national intelligence (as opposed to tactical intelligence for military commanders) to the
President and other senior officials, and “where appropriate,” to Congress. Secondly, the
DCI has served as head of the Intelligence Community with authorities to establish
priorities for collection and analysis, to develop and present to the President the annual
budget for national intelligence programs, and, within tightly prescribed limits, to transfer
funds and personnel from one part of the National Foreign Intelligence Program (NFIP),
recently renamed the National Intelligence Program (NIP), to another. And, thirdly, the
DCI has served as head of the CIA, directing the collection of information by human
sources, supervising the wide-ranging analytical efforts of the CIA, and, when directed
by the President, undertaking covert actions.
Many outside observers, Members of Congress, and various commissions over the
years have argued that the DCI position is unworkable. They contend that DCIs,
frustrated by the challenges involved in managing the entire Intelligence Community,
have focused narrowly on the CIA, and that the result has been an ill-coordinated
intelligence effort that has poorly served the Nation. Some also have contended that DCIs
have lacked adequate legal authorities to establish priorities and to ensure compliance by
intelligence agencies beyond the CIA. In particular, it has been suggested that major
intelligence agencies in the Department of Defense (DOD) — the National Security
Agency (NSA), the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), and the National-Geospatial
Agency (NGA) — have been more responsive to the needs of the military services than
to the requirements of national policymakers. And, finally, some observers, while
conceding that DCI authorities under the National Security Act are limited, nevertheless
contend that DCIs have failed to fully assert their authorities, particularly when they
conflicted with the priorities of the Secretary of Defense, viewed by many as the dominant
voice in the Intelligence Community because of the Secretary’s control over an estimated
eighty-five percent of the intelligence budget.
In July 2004 the 9/11 Commission (the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks
Upon the United States) recommended that the DCI position be replaced by a National
Intelligence Director to manage the national intelligence program and oversee the
agencies that contribute to it. In response, a number of bills were introduced and, after
extended deliberations, Congress and the President ultimately agreed to establish, through
a statute, a Director of National Intelligence along with a separate head of the CIA.
Having accepted this principle, however, there were significant differences of opinion
about the particular authorities that should be given to the DNI, especially with regard to
the preparation and execution of the budgets of the large intelligence agencies in DOD.
These differences were reconciled by a provision in the Act (section 1018) requiring that
the President issue guidelines to ensure that the DNI’s authorities are exercised in a way
that “respects and does not abrogate the statutory responsibilities” of other departments.
The Act assigns to the DNI two of the three principal responsibilities formerly
performed by the DCI. The DNI will provide intelligence to the President, other senior
officials, and Congress; and the DNI will head the Intelligence Community. But, unlike
DCIs, the DNI will not oversee the CIA. Rather, the Act establishes a new position of
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (DCIA), who will report to the DNI. The Act
also restates the major responsibilities of the Director of the CIA, which include: 1)
collecting intelligence through human sources and by other appropriate means (but with
no police, subpoena, or law enforcement powers or internal security functions); 2)
providing overall direction for and coordination of collection by human sources outside
the U.S. in coordination with other government departments; 3) performing other
functions and duties related to intelligence affecting the national security as the President
or DNI may direct [a formulation that observers believe is intended to encompass
planning and carrying out covert actions]; and 4), under the DNI’s direction, coordinating
relationships between U.S. intelligence services and those of other countries.
In addition to outlining the DNI’s responsibilities, the Act strengthens the DNI’s
authorities to carry out those responsibilities by providing the DNI additional powers in
certain areas, including in those of personnel, tasking, and acquisition. Arguably most
important, the Act increases the DNI’s control over the budgets of the Intelligence
Community’s 15 agencies. According to one observer, the DCI has “been pressing his
nose against the glass looking in,” and, never possessed the budget clout the DNI will
have.1 Other observers, while conceding that the DNI has more authorities under the Act,
question whether they are sufficient and are skeptical that the DNI will aggressively assert
them in any case.
Budget Authority. The Act strengthens DNI budget authorities in several ways.
First, it provides that the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, at the
exclusive direction of the DNI, will apportion — or direct how congressionally
appropriated funds will flow from the Treasury Department to each of the cabinet level
agencies containing intelligence community elements.2 As a result, the DNI will be able
to better control the pace of spending and could, for example, decide to withhold funds
until recipients comply with DNI spending priorities, a possibility never available to
Second, at the sub-cabinet agency and department level, the DNI will be able to allot
appropriations directly, providing the DNI an additional opportunity to control spending.3
The law further requires that the DNI notify Congress if a departmental comptroller
refuses to act in accordance with a DNI spending directive. Again, these are new
authorities that have been unavailable to DCIs.
Third, the new statute more strongly asserts the DNI’s budget authority by stipulating
that the DNI will “develop and determine” the National Intelligence Program budget.4
According to observers, the DCI’s authorities in regard to the budget, while significant
on paper, have never been used effectively.
Interview with a senior Intelligence Community official.
P.L. 108-458, Sec. 102A (c) (5) (B).
Ibid, Sec. 102A (c) (5) (A).
Ibid, Sec. 102A (c) (B). National intelligence refers “to all intelligence, regardless of the source
from which derived and included information gathered within or outside the United States. . . .”
Fourth, the Act calls on the DNI to “ensure the effective execution of the budget,”
and to monitor the implementation and execution of the NIP.5 DCIs under previous
statute had no explicit statutory execution authority beyond the CIA.
Fifth, the Act stipulates that the DNI shall provide budget guidance to those elements
of the Intelligence Community not falling within the National Intelligence Program.6 The
DCIs had no statutorily determined role in this regard.
Although equipped with enhanced authorities regarding the budget for the National
Intelligence Program, the DNI’s authority to shape intelligence support to military
operations — DoD’s Joint Military Intelligence Program (JMIP) and Tactical Intelligence
and Related Activities (TIARA) Program — remains limited and almost identical to that
of the DCIs. The DNI will “participate in the development by the Secretary of Defense
of the Joint Military Intelligence Program and the Tactical Intelligence and Related
Reprogramming Authority. Whereas DCIs, with approval of the Director of the
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) could reprogram or transfer funds only if they
obtained the concurrence of the affected agency secretary or department head, the new act
permits the DNI, with OMB approval, to transfer or reprogram funds unilaterally, but
within certain limits.8 The DNI can annually reprogram or transfer up to $150 million,
provided that sum is less than 5 percent of the affected agency or department’s budget.9
Personnel Transfer Authority. The DNI, with the OMB approval, is able to
transfer Intelligence Community personnel for up to two years. The DNI, jointly with
agency heads, develop procedures to govern such transfers. DCIs could transfer
personnel, but only with concurrence of the affected department head, and only for up to
a year. Should the DNI decide to establish a new national intelligence center, the Director
also has the authority to transfer up to 100 personnel to man the new center.10
Appointment Authority. The new statute strengthens the DNI’s appointment
authorities, to a degree, and increases the number of positions over which the DNI can
exercise some appointment authority.11 Specifically, the statute states that the department
Ibid, Sec. 102A (c) (4).
Ibid, Sec. 102A (c) (3) (B).
Ibid, Sec. 102A (c) (3) (A).
Ibid, Sec. 102A (d).
Ibid, Sec. 102A (d) (5) (A).
Ibid, Sec. 102A (e).
Ibid, Sec. 1014. These positions include: the Director of the National Security Agency, the
Director of the National Reconnaissance Office, the Director of the National GeospatialIntelligence Agency, the Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research, the Director
of the Office of Intelligence of the Department of Energy, the Director of the Office of
Counterintelligence of the Department of Energy, the Assistant Secretary for Intelligence
Analysis of the Department of the Treasury, the Executive Assistant Director for Intelligence of
or agency head having jurisdiction over the appointment must seek the concurrence of the
DNI. If the DNI does not concur, the position cannot be filled. The department head may
advise the President directly of the intention to withhold concurrence or to make a
recommendation, as the case may be.
Acquisition Authority. Whereas the DCI had no statutorily based acquisition
authority, the new Act provides that the DNI serve as the exclusive milestone decision
authority on major acquisitions.12 The DNI’s authority is limited only insofar as when the
acquisitions concern Department of Defense programs, he must share the authority with
the Secretary of Defense. If the two are unable to reach agreement, the Act stipulates that
the President will resolve it.
Tasking Authority. The Act sharpens the DNI’s tasking authority over that
enjoyed by DCIs by explicitly stipulating that the DNI shall “manage and direct the
tasking of, collection, analysis, production, and dissemination of national intelligence...by
approving requirements and resolving conflicts.13 Previous law spoke only to the DCI’s
collection authorities, and did not explicitly address analysis, production and
Authority Over the National Counterterrorism Center. The Act codifies a
new national center — the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). The NCTC has
a bifurcated reporting structure that is based on a differentiation the Act stipulates
between intelligence joint counterterrorism operations, and joint counterterrorism
operations (other than intelligence).14 As a result, the DNI has authority over the Center’s
budget and programs, NCTC’s intelligence activities and intelligence joint
counterterrorism operations. But, because strategic planning for joint counterterrorism
operations other than intelligence was viewed as an Executive Branch-wide function, the
Act stipulates that the Director of the NCTC reports directly to the President with respect
to “...planning and progress of joint counterterrorism operations (other than intelligence
the Federal Bureau of Investigation or any successor to that position, and the Assistant Secretary
of Homeland Security for Information Analysis.
Ibid, Sec. 102A(f).
Ibid, Sec. 1021. Section 1021 of P.L. 108-458 codifies the existence of the NCTC, which
initially was established by Executive Order (EO) 13358. With regard to the establishment of
the NCTC, there is a potential conflict between the law and EO 13358. For additional detail, see
CRS Report RL32816, National Counterterrorism Center: Implementation Challenges and Issues
See Congressional Record, December 8, 2004, Senate consideration of the conference report
to accompany S. 2845. Senator Joseph I. Lieberman was quoted as stating that the then-proposed
NCTC Directorate of Strategic Operational Planning would conduct planning for “...the entire
Executive branch — ranging from the combatant commands, to the State Department, to the
FBI’s Counterterrorism Division to the Department of Health and Human Services to the CIA.”
The March 2005 Report of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities fo the United States
Some observers suggest that the new and enhanced authorities described above could
be interpreted differently by different agencies. They note that section 1017 of the
Intelligence Reform Act requires that the President issue guidelines to ensure that the
DNI’s authorities are implemented in “in a manner that respects and does not abrogate the
statutory authorities” of other departments. Such guidelines, some believe, could serve
to weaken the DNI’s newly established authorities.
Potential Congressional Concerns
During confirmation hearings for Ambassador Negroponte, Members may choose
to seek the nominee’s views on the nature and extent of his statutory authorities. Some
observers have suggested ambiguities in the Intelligence Reform Act that cover complex
relationships among disparate agencies with their own statutory authorities. In such a
situation, much will undoubtedly depend on how the first DNI understands his position,
and upon the patterns of cooperation and deference that are set in the initial period of his
tenure. Congress may be especially interested in the relationships between the DNI and
the Defense Department and the law enforcement community.
Whether the DNI’s authorities under the new statute are sufficient to meet the
demands of effective management remains to be seen. What is clearer, however, is that
the statute provides the DNI substantially more authority — not only in regard to the
budget, but also in the areas of personnel, tasking and acquisition — than DCIs have had
under the National Security Act of 1947, as amended. Just how much more overall
authority the DNI will actually wield will depend on several factors. Among them: (1)
will the DNI aggressively assert the new authorities? (2) will the President and Congress
back the DNI if he does? (3) and, will the DNI successfully establish a transparent end-toend budget process that will permit him to make and effectively enforce informed budget
Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction (p. 328) expressed concerns about this bifurcated