The intelligence community faces its first budget squeeze since terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon 10 years ago.
But leaders say they’ll preserve their workforce as they seek cuts in other areas of spending.
“I think it’s important to protect the most valuable resources that we have, which are our people,” said James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, during a House and Senate joint intelligence committee hearing Tuesday.
The 9/11 attacks revealed an intelligence community weakened by years of downsizing and unable to prevent a well-documented attack by one of the best-known terrorist organizations, he said.
He shared the witness table with new CIA Director David Petraeus, who was an Army general in Bosnia on 9/11.
Petraeus said he saw firsthand the “stovepiping” of information by various government agencies.
Since then, the government has poured money into improving communication between federal entities. Congress created the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in 2005, to coordinate 17 separate intelligence agencies.
Budget constraints will likely force the CIA to reevaluate its global coverage, Petraeus said, but the agency will strive to keep people in place throughout the world. It also will maintain an aggressive language-training schedule, he said.
Clapper said he would direct intelligence entities to evaluate systems and technology rather than people.
“We are deeply engaged in an approach to a more unitary architecture across the intelligence community,” he said. “I think this would do wonders in terms of saving money, efficiency and promoting integration.”
Petraeus said he would reevaluate CIA contracts to achieve savings, even though, he said, contractors had made great contributions to the agency.
When asked what the next 10 years would bring, Clapper predicted al Qaida would grow even weaker, but the United States would face threats from its affiliates and supporters, with the most dangerous being al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, based in Yemen.
He also said the intelligence community would have to stay alert to homegrown terrorists, and to that end, he said, he would step up efforts to share information with state and local police, who have often requested greater intelligence sharing.
While the CIA has come under fire for helping the New York Police Department monitor minority neighborhoods, Clapper said he did not think there was too much domestic surveillance.
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