Statement of Susan M. Collins Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs "Assessing America's Counterterrorism Capabilities" August, 03 2004
Today, the Governmental Affairs Committee holds its second hearing on the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission calling for a restructuring of our intelligence organizations. The 9/11 Commission's report provides a highly detailed picture of our intelligence structure before that tragic day. Ultimately our Committee's responsibility is to determine how this structure should look in the future.
We must act quickly to consider the report, and to complete our assigned task of reporting legislation by October 1st. As we move with both deliberation and speed, we should use the 9/11 Commission's recommendations as a thoughtful and informed guide. That does not mean that this Committee should act as a rubber stamp. The final shape of our restructuring legislation will be determined by what we learn at these hearings.
The informative and insightful testimony we heard last Friday from Commission Chairman Tom Kean and Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton was a very good start. The testimony focused, as our Committee has, on the two most important recommendations regarding the executive branch: establishing a National Counterterrorism Center and creating the position of a National Intelligence Director.
Yesterday, the Administration acted on some of the same issues that we are considering. I applaud the President's swift and decisive action to move forward with some of the Commission's most significant recommendations. The fact that two of his highest priorities are the restructuring recommendations before this Committee emphasizes the importance of our work.
The two panels of witnesses before us today -- one from intelligence agencies and one from the 9/11 Commission staff -- will discuss the improvements that have been made to our post-9/11 intelligence capabilities, the weaknesses that remain, and the solutions we should consider.
Progress has been made since 9/11. The CIA's Counterterrorist Center and the FBI have undergone substantial changes; the Department of Homeland Security and the Terrorist Threat Integration Center are entirely new. But, as one of our witnesses here today, TTIC Director John Brennan, told the 9/11 Commission in April, "We, as a government and as a nation, are not yet optimally configured to deal with the terrorist threat."
We can learn a lot from TTIC since, in many ways, the proposed National Counterterrorism Center would be a more robust version of it. This Committee has closely followed the development of TTIC and has held two hearings on the structure and authority of this new agency, an issue that has been of particular interest to Senator Levin and me. I was its first official visitor several weeks ago.
The proposed National Counterterroism Center would be a "Super TTIC." If this more powerful version is to succeed, it must get what it needs, both in resources and in its place in the priorities of the agencies that collect intelligence. At times, getting the resources it needs - especially the expert and experienced personnel -- has been a challenge for TTIC.
The difficulty in resolving the resource and authority issues involving TTIC demonstrates how important it is for Congress to clearly define in legislation the parameters and authority of the proposed Center.
The intelligence structure that stood for 50 years during the Cold War performed well, under many administrations and many agency heads. The new intelligence system we are building for the war against terrorism must do the same. We have an obligation, not just to the Americans of today, but to Americans of generations to come, to accomplish that mission.