Mr. COMBEST. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

The Clerk read as follows:

Amendment offered by Mr. Combest: At the end of the bill, add the following new title:



Amounts obligated or expended for intelligence or intelligence -related activities based on and otherwise in accordance with the appropriations provided by the Omnibus Consolidated Rescissions and Appropriations Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-134), including any such obligations or expenditures occurring before the enactment of this Act, shall be deemed to have been specifically authorized by the Congress for purposes of section 504 of the National Security Act of 1947 (50 U.S.C. 414) and are hereby ratified and confirmed.

Mr. COMBEST (during the reading). Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent that the amendment be considered as read and printed in the Record.

The CHAIRMAN. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Texas?

There was no objection.

Mr. COMBEST. Mr. Chairman, this is also a technical amendment that would correct an oversight in the Omnibus Consolidated Rescissions and Appropriations Act of 1996. The law requires specific authorization for expenditure of funds for intelligence . The act in question obligated funds for intelligence , but contains no provisions for authorization. This amendment would correct that oversight.

It is my understanding that the amendment is acceptable to the Committee on Appropriations, and I would yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. DICKS. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

Mr. Chairman, section 504 of the National Security Act requires that funds may be obligated or expended for an intelligence or intelligence -related activity only if those funds were specifically authorized by the Congress for use for such activities.

The Combest amendment will provide the necessary authorization for funds appropriated earlier this year in the Bosnia supplemental. I support the amendment and we are prepared to accept it on our side.

The CHAIRMAN. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Texas [Mr. Combest].

The amendment was agreed to.

Mr. SKAGGS. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

Mr. Chairman, debate concluded a few minutes ago on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Michigan [Mr. Conyers] about the question of declassification of the aggregate amount of intelligence expenditures. I wanted nonetheless to address that question briefly at this time.

The debate on this, I think, is easily misconstrued and, therefore, misunderstood. It seems to me always appropriate to start with first principles, which, in a democracy, ought to be that the maximum amount of information about the activities of our Government be made available to our citizens.

Now, there are necessarily exceptions to that principle for national security information, for State secrets, but the general principle again ought to be to make as much information about the operations of a democratically elected, representative government as possible available, so that citizens may make informed judgments in the process of self-government.

It has been alleged that somehow vital national security interests are going to be compromised if this aggregate intelligence expenditure is declassified. I think that is a proposition that is virtually impossible to support rationally. It is a figure that is often nearly accurately reported in the open press. It is a number that ought to be accurately and openly reported in the press so that our fellow citizens have at least an overall sense of how much of their hard-earned tax dollars is being devoted to this important national purpose.

The slippery slope argument is often offered up as a reason not to take this step, because this step, it is asserted, will inevitably lead to the disclosure of constituent amounts within the intelligence budget, I think that argument simply is unable to be sustained. We are able to keep ourselves from sliding down lots of slopes around this place, and I think we can draw a firm line after this particular disclosure, and it does not need to lead to others.

It has also been suggested that this should just be done as a matter of executive decision by the President. I think it is an important policy judgment that ought to be validated and ratified by a vote of the Congress, not just done by act of the executive branch alone.

Perhaps most helpful is to realize that an extensive review of this issue of the disclose of the aggregate intelligence expenditures was undertaken by the Aspin-Brown Commission. It has been scrubbed and vetted and examined, and it was the judgment of that distinguished group of American patriots and experts in defense and intelligence and national security matters, that keeping this total budget figure secret any longer just simply does not serve any legitimate national security or national defense purpose. And it certainly fails to serve the legitimate interests of the public in being able to have access to as much information about their Government as possible.

So I hope, when we reach the point in the proceedings where we have a vote on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Michigan [Mr. Conyers], that my colleagues will support his proposal. I think it is an appropriate step forward. It will ultimately enhance public understanding and, therefore, I would hope public support, for this important function of our national Government.

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Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Chairman, I rise to strike the last word.

Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the Conyers amendment to make public the cumulative number of the intelligence budget.

This is not a new issue to the Congress, Mr. Chairman. Over the past several Congresses we have had this debate on the floor about whether this number should be released and whether its release would jeopardize our national security. I believe the answer is yes, that it should be released, and, no, it does not jeopardize our national security.

When the issue first arose we had the debate, and it was said that we needed more information. So our chairman at the time, Mr. Glickman, Chairman Glickman, held hearings, very extensive hearings, where experts in the field of intelligence confirmed that our national security would not be jeopardized and indeed it would be healthy to release the number.

As early as some of the statements as early as 1991 on the subject have said, former DCI Robert Gates said, `I don't have any problem with releasing the top-line number of the intelligence community budget.'

That same year former Director of NSA, Bobby Inman, said, `I am certainly prepared to make unclassified the total amount and defend it to the public, why 10 percent of our total defense efforts spent both for national and tactical intelligence is not a bad goal at all.'

And of course this year the White House statement on this subject said, reflecting the President's determination to promote openness in the intelligence community, he has authorized Congress to make public the total appropriation.

Going way back 20 years, the select committee that studied governmental operations with respect to intelligence activities stated intelligence oversight committee should authorize on an annual basis a national intelligence budget, the total amount of which should be made public.

So over the years and as recently as the statements of this year, most currently that of DCI John Deutch, the President is persuaded that disclosure of the annual amount appropriated for intelligence purposes will inform the public and not in itself harm intelligence activities.

I think that there is a good cross-section of studies and DCI's from both, appointed by Presidents of both parties, who have supported making this number public, and I think it is a healthy thing to do.

The defense, the intelligence , community should have to defend the amount of money that is spent on intelligence in relationship to the rest of the budget. It is especially important this year so that we can restore some of the confidence to this process that has been undermined by the recent NRO revelations, and on that point, Mr. Chairman, I would like to say that when people accept the public trust, they and we all have a special responsibility. We must be responsible fiscally for the funds that are in our trust, we must understand the stiff competition for the funds and, therefore, have to be able to justify how they are expended.

We need to maintain the public confidence in what we are doing, and so what happened at NRO is most unfortunate because it did undermine all of these, the public confidence and the trust that we all should have in husbanding the public dollars.

And most of all, the actions of any one of these agencies should not undermine the strength, the perceived strength, of our country. We have to look like we know what we are doing and can account for the responsibilities of both fiscal and otherwise in our charge, and so I would say that with all of the testimony that we have had over the years, with the cooperation now of the executive branch, with the definite need that has been demonstrated for in one instance by the NRO situation, it behooves this Congress to move to support the Conyers amendment to make this number public, to open the intelligence process to the extent of saying this is a number that can, that should have to, be defended within the total budget process and that it should be done in a manner that is not harmful to our intelligence activities nor jeopardize the national security of our country.

I am satisfied by the statements of such a wide-ranging, as I said, bipartisan group of people who have testified in hearings of the House of Representatives and on the Senate side over a long period of time, that there is no doubt that we should make this number public. I urge my colleagues to support the Conyers amendment.

Mrs. SCHROEDER. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

Mr. Chairman, I will be offering some amendments later on, but I wanted to rise in favor of the Conyers amendment also.

I have always believed that government is not a fungus, that it can thrive in sunshine, and I understand that during the whole period of the Cold War we wanted to keep this number secret. But I think now we ought to be able to get this number out, and I salute the President of the United States for saying we ought to put the number out, and I hope that this body finally does that.

Coming here to debate this issue, I always feel very silly because we cannot talk about the numbers, we cannot talk about the issues, we cannot talk about anything. So what can we talk about? It all sounds like a bag of smoke at some point. But I think one of the things that the average person wonders is why are we not much more rigorous in our oversight? And I must say the only reason I think we do not reveal the number is we do not want to admit how poorly we have done some of the oversight.

Now, this is not a great secret. I brought it from the newspapers so nobody wants to turn me in to jail. But if my colleagues remember, the Washington Post and many other articles were pointing out how the NRO had purchased 14 more acres than they needed for their $304 million complex, and of course most people remember the big brouhaha about the $304 million complex. Here it was being built in suburban Washington on the Virginia side, and no one knew. Viola.

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Mr. Chairman, in the district I come from, Denver, CO, they have had to shut down Head Start already this year. They ran out of money. We have all these people desperately looking for just pennies to keep something running, and yet they can, first of all, do a headquarters that no one knew about, there it is, and then we find out they had all these extra acreages, and nothing ever happens. Then we also find out, as we found out this year, that they admitted they had a $3.8 billion slush fund.

I understand we are supposed to call it the surplus unspent funds, but I think if any other agency in Government had that kind of slush fund or surplus unspent funds, whatever you want to call them, people would be down here, the deficit hawks would be down here screaming and yelling and hollering, and rightly so.

I guess the problem I see, Mr. Chairman, is that on one side of the budget we are very critical, and I think that is fine, but when it comes to defense and intelligence , it does not make any difference. We have the report of the slush fund, and yet nobody really wants to talk about cutting. Yet, you cannot talk about what percentage of the budget that slush fund is because we cannot tell what the budget number is. But that is a lot of money.

If we look again in the generic press, and I am staying right in the generic press, my goodness, we would not want to reveal any of these secrets because they probably would have to shoot me and whoever else I would reveal them to, and I would not want that on my conscience.

So if we go and look at those numbers, let us look at these numbers and look at them seriously, they are saying in the generic press that these surplus unspent funds, they are adding about $1 billion to it every year. That seems to say to me maybe we are putting too much money in it. Are we awake? Are we doing any oversight, or are we just saying that this is so important that we will just give them any amount of money, whether they can spend it or not?

I am also sad that we cannot get into more details. I was very troubled by the late article in the Atlantic Monthly about some of the training that had gone on in the Middle East, so that they think we may be responsible for training some of the terrorists, that it was done with good will, but it kind of got out of control.

So if we add all of those things together, we scratch our heads and say surely we can at least do what the gentleman from Michigan [Mr. Conyers] and the President of the United States have said we could do, which is at least put the overall number out of here. Even though I will not be here next year, then maybe whoever is here next year can have a little bit better debate and put this in a little bit better context because we can talk about what percentages these are. I hope that the Conyers amendment is passed, Mr. Chairman.

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Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.

Mr. Chairman, I rise to engage the chairman of the committee in a colloquy concerning section 304 of the bill. I would say to the gentleman from Texas, the chairman of the committee, as he knows, this provision extends the laws allowing the President to delay the imposition of a sanction upon a determination that to proceed with the sanction would risk a compromise of an ongoing criminal investigation or an intelligence source or method.

My question, Mr. Chairman, is whether the legislative history developed during the debate on this provision last year would still be applicable to the extension of the authority for 1 year? My further question is that can we expect that this provision will be narrowly construed, and only used in the most serious of circumstances, not to protect routine intelligence activities?

Mr. COMBEST. Mr. Chairman, will the gentlewoman yield?

Ms. PELOSI. I yield to the gentleman from Texas.

Mr. COMBEST. Mr. Chairman, I would certainly concur and say yes, we would intend for this to still be in effect. As the gentlewoman so adequately pointed out, and has been very effective, I think, in leading on this issue, we would certainly expect that this provision would be narrowly construed and only used in the most serious of circumstances. That is certainly the intent of the committee to carry forward in this year's authorization.

Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Chairman, I thank the chairman for engaging in the colloquy, and for his confirmation of the understanding that we had of the legislative background on this last year. As Members may recall, I worked closely with the gentleman from California [Mr. Berman] who is an expert in this field, and has an interest in the waiver of sanctions and the particular limitations that the chairman of the committee has confirmed. I thank the chairman of the committee once again for that confirmation.

Mr. DICKS. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.

Mr. Chairman, I want to reiterate a couple of concerns I have about this bill. As I have stated, I am going to support it, but we need to remember that the money we are spending for intelligence today, in my mind, is a tremendous force multiplier for our military.

When we consider the fact that we can now literally fuse into the cockpits of our aircraft intelligence gathered in space to give the locations of enemy weapons systems in almost real time, so they can be properly targeted, I think all of a sudden we recognize the revolutionary improvements that are being made in our overall military capability.

To my friends on the Democratic side, I believe strongly that such capabilities will allow us in the future to deter military conflicts. I would urge my colleagues, to support the Conyers amendment, of which I am a sponsor.

I think we can disclose the aggregate number, but I want everyone to remember that this is still a part of the Defense Department. It is a portion of the defense budget that is used not only to gather intelligence for our national leadership, but also to be used effectively to protect the people that we are sending in harm's way every single day all around the world and to convince our adversaries that picking a fight with the United States just simply does not make sense.

I had a chance just a few weeks ago to go to our combined air operation in Vincenza and to see a real fusion center where intelligence from all of our collection platforms is gathered. This intelligence is used by our military to find problems in Bosnia that are then communicated to the military commanders, and thus they are able to avoid possible conflicts that could occur; because of the ability to find enemy radars and things of that nature.

This is truly a revolutionary change in intelligence capabilities, so as we sometimes get harsh with the NRO, I would say that John Deutch took effective steps. He named a new chief financial officer. He named a new head of the NRO, a very fine public servant. The two people that were removed are people who have given distinguished service to our country. Unfortunately, the financial people at the NRO did not do their job properly, and Congress was not properly informed about the size of these carryforward funds.

Mr. Chairman, I want to reiterate, there is no evidence that any of that money was spent on items not authorized by Congress. One of my colleagues talked today about the very famous NRO building. Our committee, a bipartisan basis, put out a report that said that we knew about this building. In fact, we had good oversight over the building. We pointed out that in the other body there were amendments offered by members of the Intelligence Committee to accelerate and possibly to expand the size of the NRO building.

So when they then turned around at a later date and said they knew nothing about it, many of us in this body had serious reservations about how they in fact could say that. Sometimes in a rush we do not keep the facts in sight, and we sometimes do not know the history.

The point I am trying to make, Mr. Chairman, is that the NRO has been one of the stellar institutions in our Government. One of the reasons we won the cold war was because we had the finest intelligence . We have the finest intelligence community of any nation on earth. Those intelligence community assets are used to enhance our military capability in order to protect American lives and to deter future wars. That is why I have always strongly supported our intelligence community.

Can we reduce the money? Yes. Have we reduced the money? Yes. We have reduced it significantly.

The CHAIRMAN. The time of the gentleman from Washington [Mr. Dicks] has expired.

(By unanimous consent, Mr. Dicks was allowed to proceed for 3 additional minutes.)

Mr. DICKS. Mr. Chairman, have we reduced the money for defense? Yes.

We have cut the Defense budget by about $100 billion a year between 1985 and 1995. We have also cut back on the amount of money for the intelligence agencies. We have cut back on the number of personnel. I am talking about across the board cuts in the Defense Department, the CIA, and all of these agencies, we have reduced the size. Yet, today, America is in more countries around the world with military forces that require accurate intelligence for their security and support.

Mr. Chairman, I just urge my colleagues to remember that fact. Yes, we can always beat up on an agency, but I am always reminded of the fact that this agency is composed of American citizens who serve our Government faithfully, who have done an extraordinary job. I just urge us to put this into some perspective. If they had failed in building these national technical means, then we would be here criticizing them. They certainly failed to keep Congress appropriately informed of the size of the carryover funds. There is no evidence whatsoever that any of that money was improperly spent.

So let us try to keep this in perspective. Sometimes, with all the criticism, the harsh rhetoric, we forget that these are men and women who have done a fantastic job for this Nation, and who really do deserve our support.

Mrs. SCHROEDER. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. DICKS. I yield to the gentlewoman from Colorado, an outstanding member of the Committee on Armed Services.

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Mrs. SCHROEDER. The gentleman is a good friend and I respect him very much, Mr. Chairman.

My question, Mr. Chairman, is not to be confrontational, but the gentleman is not questioning the fact that almost $1 billion a year had gone into this $3.8 billion surplus fund, is that correct?

Mr. DICKS. Mr. Chairman, the gentlewoman was not on the floor, I think, when we talked about this a little earlier. As she knows, when we buy a weapons system at the Pentagon, sometimes there are billions of dollars of unobligated funds that are spend over a period of time. In the intelligence area, we incrementally fund. It was the opinion of George Mahon and some of the senior members of the Committee on Appropriations many years ago that we could not risk a situation where Congress has not passed its budget by the start of the fiscal year. They believed it was necessary to have a certain amount of flexibility in carryforward funds to keep these programs going, if the Congress did not get the Defense budget passed. There was a kind of agreement among the players to do this.

What I object to, and I know the gentlewoman from Colorado objects to, is that this account, and each one of these were for different national technical means, different satellite programs, is that these accounts grew too large in the aggregate. None of the money was misspent. I think the fault was that Congress was not kept appropriately advised about the magnitude.

I can tell the Members, I am very pleased that it was the staff of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence , and particularly the minority staff, that went to the NRO, found this out, made it known to the other key committees in the Congress, and last year we dramatically reduced the amount of money in those accounts. We used it for Bosnia, we use it for other defense priorities, so that the money was not wasted. The American people did not get ripped off.

The CHAIRMAN. The time of the gentleman from Washington [Mr. Dicks] has expired.

(By unanimous consent and on request of Mrs. Schroeder, Mr. Dicks was allowed to proceed for 2 additional minutes.)

Mrs. SCHROEDER. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. DICKS. I yield to the gentlewoman from Colorado.

Mrs. SCHROEDER. Mr. Chairman, the issue is that the money was not spent, and then it forced us to spend a tremendous amount of money just on interest on that additional debt we incurred by spending more than we really needed to spend at that time, when we build up an account of that much over that period of time. And the gentleman knows and I know that the fastest growing part of the Federal budget has been interest on the debt. We would not allow any other agency to do that.

Mr. DICKS. Mr. Chairman, of course, as the gentlewoman certainly knows and appreciates, this is budget authority. You do not really spend money until you spend it. That is an outlay. So they had the budget authority, but they never spent the money. So that would not incur any obligation by the Federal Treasury.

In a sense, they had the ability to draw on the Treasury up to $4 billion, but they did not do it. What we did with that BA is move it to other higher priority items like Bosnia, so we did not have to appropriate additional money, and again that was agreed to.

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Mrs. SCHROEDER. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. DICKS. I yield to the gentlewoman from Colorado.

Mrs. SCHROEDER. Mr. Chairman, I think the gentleman knows that everybody in the world would love to have that kind of budget authority in the bank that they could move around for things, and we lose the oversight capacity.

Mr. DICKS. Mr. Chairman, reclaiming my time, the chairman and myself have limited the amount of the carry-forward. The director of the CIA, one of the most competent individuals I know, has made changes in the NRO, has named a new chief financial officer. So in a sense, I think we ought to give Mr. Deutch and the administration some support for the steps that they have taken to ensure that this does not happen again in the future.

Yes, the NRO made a mistake. Yes, they were wrong. But I want us to place in perspective that these same people who did a bad job in their accounting also have done some tremendously positive things for the country in terms of the satellites that have been built over the years that helped us avoid a confrontation with the Soviet Union.

The CHAIRMAN. The time of the gentleman from Washington [Mr. Dicks] has expired.

(By unanimous consent, Mr. Dicks was allowed to proceed for 1 additional minute.)

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. DICKS. I yield to the gentleman from Massachusetts.

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Chairman, I am glad to hear the gentleman say we should give support to the administration. We can do that in part by abiding by their budget request and not spending well over $1 billion in this budget than the administration requested. We will deal with that in some later amendments.