U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld met at the Pentagon Thursday with the man some analysts predict he will clash with in the Bush administration's second term, the country's first director of national intelligence, John Negroponte. Officials provided no details of the meeting, and canceled plans for the men to face reporters afterward, but two senior Defense intelligence officials testified before a Senate committee about how they will accommodate the creation of the new level of intelligence management.
Ambassador Negroponte came to the Pentagon early Thursday for the meeting with Secretary Rumsfeld. The former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and the United Nations has been given a tough job, to supervise and integrate all U.S. intelligence gathering, including the Defense Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and other organizations.
His new position was created by Congress, at President Bush's request, in response to concerns that the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks might have been prevented if U.S. intelligence gathering had been more effective and better coordinated.
At the Senate Armed Service Committee on Thursday, at the same time that Secretary Rumsfeld was hosting Ambassador Negroponte, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, Stephen Cambone, was asked what would happen if there were a dispute between the secretary and the director of national intelligence over the key issue of funding for intelligence activities.
"The DNI and the secretary will sit down and they will decide between them which direction they wish to go," he said. "If the DNI decides he does not wish to accommodate the secretary for whatever reason, he either can't or he thinks he should do otherwise, the secretary has an appeal to the president, but it is the DNI who will decide the budget."
Secretary Rumsfeld has designated Mr. Cambone as the Defense Department's liaison to the new director of national intelligence, a move some have criticized as an effort to limit Mr. Negroponte's ability to directly manage the department's intelligence units. But Mr. Cambone said his role will not prevent direct contact with specific units by Mr. Negroponte or the CIA.
At the same hearing, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, was asked how he would handle conflicting orders from the defense secretary and the director of national intelligence. He said the question was highly hypothetical, and he does not expect that to happen, but he offered this answer.
"I would go forward to both of my seniors and tell them the direction that I was going to take," said Mr. Jacoby. "That allows them to be knowledgeable and also to take any action they would want or deem necessary at that point. But then it comes down to me as an intelligence professional executing the guidance that in my judgment needs to be followed."
Admiral Jacoby said the most important factors for improving U.S. intelligence include better integration of existing capabilities and the development of the capability for what he called more "persistent" intelligence gathering, technology that can monitor potential threats constantly.
The admiral also said there has been a fundamental change in the way U.S. national intelligence estimates are presented to senior policy makers. He said dissenting opinions among intelligence analysts are no longer relegated to footnotes, but rather are included in the text of the documents, along with explanations of why the experts have different views. This is in part a response to concerns that before the invasion of Iraq, the opinions of some analysts were not given enough attention when they disputed the views of other experts who concluded that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction. That was the main U.S. justification for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but no such weapons were found.