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Pentagon review: get a grip on intel spending

Get a better handle on who's doing what in the intelligence and national security world and how much they're spending to do it: that's the basic message of an independent Pentagon panel's report released this week.

The 159-page report, known as the Quadrennial Defense Review or QDR for short, could spark an interesting debate on Capitol Hill about how the intelligence world is managed and how it spends its money.

The report is commissioned every four years to evaluate the Pentagon's operations and future plans. This year, more than a dozen industry names and former Pentagon bigwigs participated, including Defense Secretary William J. Perry and former National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley, both of whom served as co-chairmen.

For those in the intelligence world, a handful of the panel's recommendations are of particular interest. Among them:

*Figure out who's doing what. The panel suggests creating a legislative reform package that would clarify the responsibilities and authorities of several agencies, including the State Department, USAID, the DOD, and the Intelligence Community.

*Jump-start an old panel. It says the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress, which was established in 1945 and has convened twice since then, most recently in 1993, should reconvene.

*Show us the money. That's basically what the QDR panel envisions the Joint Committee doing. The Joint Committee would establish a "single national security appropriations subcommittee" that would examine spending at DOD, the State Department and the Intelligence Community and coordinate their efforts.

*Consolidate, consolidate, consolidate. The QDR panel said there's a need to make a "consolidated budget line" for national security that includes Defense, State, State/AID and the Intelligence Community.

*Put someone in charge. They recommend that it be the Office of Management and Budget and the National Security Council to look at how budgets of the various agencies are implemented.

While the ideas are intriguing, implementing them could be hard, given the various Congressional committees and government agencies that oversee intelligence functions.
The report's authors note as much: "each agency has its own perspective on national security challenges, its own methods of operation, its own personnel system, and its own culture."

Whether those can be merged and coordinated remains to be seen, and could be a challenge. But at least there's a set of ideas out there offering some suggestions on how to begin.

By Dana Hedgpeth  |  August 5, 2010; 7:10 AM ET
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