Mr. DeCONCINI. Mr. President, I join with Senators Warner and Graham to introduce a bill to create a Commission on the Roles and Capabilities of the U.S. Intelligence Community.
I give Senator Warner, the distinguished vice chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, and Senator Graham, who has made an extremely valuable contribution as a member of the Committee, the lion's share of the credit for this initiative. They have for some time now believed such an effort is needed.
I have come to agree with them. Indeed, it had been my hope that the executive branch itself might have initiated such a review, but this has not happened, and, on reflection, I believe this bill represents a better way to go. A review conducted entirely within the executive branch would simply lack the requisite credibility.
Mr. President, there have been significant changes in the intelligence community since the end of the cold war.
There have been personnel reductions and reallocations of resources carried out by individual agencies.
But what we are thus far lacking and what is, in my opinion, sorely needed, is an overall revalidation of the roles and capabilities of the intelligence community in the post-cold war world. We need to have an objective, hard-headed look at the fundamentals: at what we expect intelligence agencies to do, at what levels they should be resourced, at what capabilities they must retain for the future. Everything should be on the table.
I do not think this can be achieved by the executive branch looking at itself, nor do I think the congressional oversight committees have the capability to do what is needed.
What we are proposing today is a bipartisan commission with 11 members. Seven would come from the private sector and be appointed by the President. Four would come from the Congress: two from the Senate and two from the House. The President would designate a chairman from among the private members. The Commission would be empowered to hire its own staff and not have to rely on staff from the intelligence agencies.
The end result of its work would be a report to the President and the Congress. To the extent possible, the report would be unclassified and made available to the public. There would necessarily be a classified supplement which would could not be made public but which would be provided the President and the intelligence committees.
We think the Commission should be given sufficient time to do its job. These are difficult issues and should not be assessed in a rush. The bill provides that the final report of the Commission be submitted by December 31, 1996, in time for the new administration--Democrat or Republican--to act upon its recommendations. Given the time which will be required for the appointment and security processing of the members of the Commission, we think this will allow a year and half up to 2 years for the Commission to do its substantive work. We believe it will take this amount of time.
Mr. President, in my tenure on the Intelligence Committee and in particular during these last 2 years when I have served as chairman, it has become increasingly clear to me that the political consensus that we once had for this function has eroded and continues to erode. We need a new consensus. We need a new rationale--a revalidation of the approach we have been taking by a group of objective, hard-headed people, with no ax to grind and no stake in the outcome. This is what we contemplate in this Commission.
I am convinced it will serve the interests of both the executive and legislative branches, and urge my colleagues to support it.