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House OKs Shift in Funds to Basic Spying

June 22, 2005|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The House voted Tuesday to shift intelligence dollars from satellites and other high-tech programs back to basic spying as lawmakers pushed to give embattled U.S. agencies tools to fight a wide range of threats.

The bill was approved by a vote of 409 to 16.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said his panel, in an annual budget bill, made cuts to expensive and sometimes duplicative technology and was investing the saving in less expensive "human intelligence" programs, or traditional spying.

He said the trimming was done on a variety of programs -- particularly space and airborne capabilities -- but he did not give specifics.

"Everything is a Cadillac," Hoekstra said. "It goes to the extreme of what technology can deliver today."

What would be cut and where the money would go were in the bill's classified portion. Its total price tag was kept secret, but had been estimated at $40 billion or more.

In a statement, President Bush's budget office said it understood that the classified section, which it hadn't seen, made cuts to White House requests. "The administration ... has serious concerns should that be the case," it said.

For years, some Republicans and Democrats in Congress have argued that spy agencies lack a strategic plan on how best to spend the billions of dollars that go toward classified satellites, unmanned aircraft and other technologies.

The intelligence bill -- the first since John Negroponte took over as director of national intelligence in April -- provides increased budget authority to train intelligence analysts and improve counterintelligence. It calls for increases to train clandestine officers.

And it sought to clarify Negroponte's authority over budgets, personnel and human intelligence programs. But some moves were met with resistance.

For instance, House Armed Services Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-El Cajon) wanted the power to approve the transfer of intelligence personnel within the Defense Department. But he said he reached a compromise with Negroponte that required the two to meet before any changes.

Intelligence committee leaders dropped a measure that would have put the CIA director in charge of clandestine FBI and Pentagon officers overseas.

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