Statement of Rep. Dave Obey on House Resolution 35
January 8, 2007

I'm Dave Obey from Wisconsin, and I want to talk a bit about the effort we're going to be trying to pass on the floor tomorrow to strengthen congressional oversight of the intelligence community.

There have been two basic problems with the existing committee oversight arrangements. Number one, the intelligence community itself has had a great tendency to ignore the authorizing committee, the policy committee if you please, because they don't provide the money. And, as you know, in this town people like to follow the money.

Secondly, we've been further handicapped because, on the Appropriations Committee, we have been blocked from doing the kind of investigations, the kind of oversight, that is necessary in order to provide proper checks and balances in a very delicate area.

Example: Two years ago when Mr. Rumsfeld set up a separate intelligence operation outside of his own agency intelligence operation, we were blocked from doing a thorough review of that action and Congress was left flying blind.

The commission recommended, to solve that problem, that we have an actual merger of the Authorizing and Appropriations Committees. We judged that to be not the way to go for one reason, because the Appropriations Committee has to allocate money to intelligence within the context and larger considerations on other national security requirements.

We have to fund the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, as well as the intelligence community. And so we didn't feel that there ought to be a single shot appropriation operation.

But we did feel that there was a substantial need for merging the operations of the two committees. And so what has been done is we really followed the example of the Joint Taxation Committee, which has a process under which a variety of committees in the Congress will annual review both the operations to the IRS and the budget for the IRS in order to make certain that both are operating well.

So the speaker is creating, under this legislation, a new hybrid committee which will have representatives of both the Intelligence Committee and the Appropriations Committee as its members.

That panel will be tasked with the requirement to prepare on an annual basis a document which will be used as the basis for determining the intelligence -- the classified annex to the defense appropriations bill which contains the intelligence funding under normal circumstances.

And by doing that, we will have a -- we will have the ability of both committees to work together to see to it that we conduct oversight not only of budget actions, but also of activities of the intelligence community.

All of the members of that task force will be appointed by the speaker, because we want the intelligence community to understand that they are dealing not just with individual members of Congress or with individual committees, but they are dealing with the speaker of the House who represents and leads an independent branch of government which has the right to full access to information.

We will also have a significantly beefed up staff, because one of the problems -- example, last year, for instance, the minority on the Appropriations Committee had exactly one staffer to cover all intelligence activities, plus the entire defense budget. Obviously, that's a ludicrous arrangement and this will correct both of those problems.

The ability of this group to function will also be buttressed by the subpoena power of the Appropriations Committee so that if the task force is not -- if they are not getting the right information from the intelligence community, they will be backed up by the Appropriations Committee subpoena powers.



1st Session

H. RES. 35

To enhance intelligence oversight authority.


January 5, 2007

Mr. OBEY submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Rules


To enhance intelligence oversight authority.