President Bush has endorsed the creation of a national intelligence director as part of an extensive reform of the intelligence community. It was one of the key recommendations of the commission that investigated the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.
The president acted quickly to announce the election-year reforms.
Less than two weeks after the commission issued its report, Mr. Bush embraced its key recommendations: the creation of a national intelligence director, and the establishment of a national counter-terrorism center to analyze and coordinate information.
"All these reforms have a single goal: we will ensure that the people in government responsible for defending America and countering terrorism have the best possible information to make the best decisions," he said.
A priority is to coordinate the work of the more than one dozen intelligence entities in the United States government. President Bush said naming one person who is responsible for all intelligence operations is an important step.
"The national intelligence director will serve as the president's principle intelligence advisor and will oversee and coordinate the foreign and domestic activities of the intelligence community," he said.
The idea got a cool reception from those who would lose power in such a reorganization and there were indications some at the White House were less than enthusiastic. But the public pressure on the president to respond to the commission report was high, and he said in the end he felt it was wise to create the post, although with some modifications.
The commission wanted the national intelligence director to be part of the president's cabinet. But Mr. Bush told reporters he did not want the position to be tied to the White House, stressing the post must be independent and free of political pressures.
"I think it should be a stand alone group to better coordinate," added Mr. Bush.
The president also brushed aside criticism from Democratic Presidential Nominee John Kerry, who has said he would have extended the life of the commission to monitor the implementation of its recommendations. Mr. Kerry has accused the Bush administration of wasting time and waiting too long to take action to reform the intelligence community following the September 11th attacks.
Mr. Bush noted the reform process was already well underway when the commission released its recommendations.
"We are a nation in danger," he said. "We are doing everything we can to confront the danger. We are making good progress in protecting our people and bringing our enemies to account. But one thing is certain. We will keep our focus and we will keep our resolve. We will do our duty."
The president spoke in the White House rose garden after a meeting with his cabinet. On the streets nearby were constant reminders of heightened security in the neighborhood - which is also home to the headquarters of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
"The elevation of the threat level in New York and New Jersey and Washington D.C. is a serious reminder, a solemn reminder, of the threat we continue to face," he said.
Mr. Bush said he agrees with the commission that it is important to remember that while the nation is safer these days, it still is not safe.