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Feingold Pushes Intel Reforms to Increase Oversight and Accountability, While Better Protecting Taxpayer Dollars

Washington Post Reports Highlight Need for Improved Oversight to Ensure Accountability and Protect Taxpayer Dollars

From Senator Russ Feingold

Washington, D.C. – Following the Washington Post’s publication of a series of reports on the unprecedented growth of the national and military intelligence communities over the last decade, U.S. Senator Russ Feingold is once again pushing for reforms to improve oversight of intelligence activities and better protect taxpayer dollars in the process.  Last year, Feingold successfully included provisions in the FY2010 Intelligence Authorization bill to improve oversight and accountability of intelligence activities.  He has also supported efforts to crack down on cost overruns and included these provisions in his Control Spending Now Act (S.1808), a bill made up of more than 40 proposals to reduce wasteful government spending, including intelligence spending

Senator Feingold has introduced a bipartisan resolution (S. Res. 164) to implement the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission to improve oversight by granting appropriations authority to the Intelligence Committee.  He is also the sponsor of a bill to create an independent commission to recommend how to integrate the intelligence community with the State Department and other open collectors of information, thereby making best use of U.S. government resources in order to close gaps in our ability to anticipate emerging threats around the world.  The bill, originally co-sponsored by former Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE), has passed the Senate as part of the Intelligence Authorization bill.

“These reports highlight how, without adequate oversight, our intelligence apparatus has grown to an unprecedented size, spends taxpayer dollars inefficiently and may not be focusing on what it needs to be focusing on,” Feingold said.  “The intelligence community and the congressional oversight process are in dire need of reform if we are truly going to do all we can to keep Americans safe.  I hope these reports give new momentum to my efforts to require more accountability on costs, better integration of the intelligence community and other elements of the U.S. government, and giving the Intelligence Committee appropriations oversight, as recommended by the 9/11 Commission.”

Over the past year, Senator Feingold has offered several intelligence reforms, which if passed, would help enhance oversight and accountability:

  • Ending Wasteful Intelligence Spending – Senator Feingold’s Control Spending Now Act, legislation made up of more than 40 specific spending cuts to slash the deficit, includes five provisions to control costs of intelligence systems. The five intelligence reform provisions, all of which were included in the Senate-passed FY2010 Intelligence Authorization bill, would: 
    1. Require that cost overruns of major intelligence acquisition systems be reported to Congress along with an updated cost estimate and a certification by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) that the acquisition is essential to national security, that there are no other alternatives that will provide equal or greater intelligence capability at equal or less cost to completion, that the new estimates are reasonable, and that the eventual costs will be controlled. Feingold originally co-sponsored this effort with Intelligence Committee Vice-Chairman Kit Bond (R-MO).
    2. Require reports to Congress on the costs of major acquisition systems, including estimates of annual development costs, planned procurement schedules, full “life-cycle” costs, and the results of tests and evaluations.
    3. Require the DNI to conduct assessments of the risks and vulnerabilities of major intelligence systems.
    4. Require the DNI, with the concurrence of the Office of Management and Budget, to provide Congress with long-range budget projections, including the year-by-year funding plans for each intelligence expenditure center and major system.
    5. Establish clear accountability by requiring the heads of intelligence agencies to designate officials responsible for correcting persistent failures to produce financial statements that can be audited. It also requires the heads of the agencies to appoint an independent auditor to determine whether these failures have, indeed, been corrected, and to report to Congress on the audits.
  • Reforming congressional oversight – Senator Feingold introduced a bipartisan resolution (S. Res. 164) that would implement a 9/11 Commission recommendation to provide appropriations authority to the Senate Intelligence Committee.  The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Tom Coburn (R-OK), John McCain (R-AZ), and Olympia Snowe (R-ME).  Feingold also successfully offered, with Senator Kit Bond (R-MO), an amendment to the Intelligence Authorization bill that would require declassification of the top-line intelligence budget request.  In addition to improving transparency and accountability, the provision allows for a separate intelligence appropriations bill, another recommendation of the 9/11 Commission.  Finally, Feingold successfully offered an amendment to the bill that would require notification to Congress on the legal authorities for intelligence activities, so that taxpayer dollars are not used to circumvent the law and Constitution.  
  • Making full and efficient use of U.S. government capabilities – Leaders of the intelligence community have testified that the open collection of information conducted by State Department and other non-intelligence community elements of the U.S. government are critical to our understanding of terrorist and other emerging threats around the world.  Yet we are not making best use of these resources, nor have we integrated them with the clandestine activities of the intelligence community.  With the original co-sponsorship of Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Senator Feingold successfully offered to the Intelligence Authorization bill an amendment to establish an independent commission that would provide recommendations to the President and to Congress on how to achieve this important reform. 

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