Bush Administration’s Response to 9/11 Panel Report

MADELEINE BRAND, host: Now the president said he wants to move forward on those recommendations, but how seriously do you think this report is going to be taken? Do you think it’ll end up like so many others on a shelf somewhere gathering dust, or will we see real changes as a result?

MICHAEL O’HANLON: Well, I think it will be taken seriously, in its central recommendation especially, for the creation of this national intelligence czar. Whether or not President Bush ultimately agrees with that recommendation is the question. I don’t think he can afford to sort of give casual attention to this, brush it off and not bother to form an opinion. He’s going to have to decide, whether he agrees or not.

MADELEINE BRAND: Now you mention this terrorism czar, Cabinet-level czar, which is one of the recommendations. There are a number of other recommendations in the report that would streamline intelligence gathering and terrorism oversight–for example, a new joint House-Senate committee on intelligence and a national counterterrorism center. Is this the way to go, or could it create even bigger bureaucracies, something that we’ve seen, for example, with the Department of Homeland Security?

MICHAEL O’HANLON: I think in general there’s no proposal in this report that looks like the idea of the Department of Homeland Security. There’s no effort to merge tens or hundreds of thousands of people together. The intelligence czar, for example, would be one layer of additional oversight in much the same way that the joint staff or the office of the secretary of Defense oversee the Pentagon services. The committee structure in Capitol Hill, of course, involves a much smaller number of people, a few dozen members of Congress and senators, and then a few hundred staff. And so certainly the idea of rearranging some of these committees is not nearly the herculean task that it would be to create a whole new department. It may or may not be a good idea, but I think it’s a more tractable sort of concept than what we saw with the homeland security debate.

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