There is a lot of concern among Republicans in Washington tonight over the possibility that President Bush will nominate General Michael Hayden to be the new director of the CIA. On Fox News Sunday today, House Intelligence Committee chairman Peter Hoekstra called Hayden the “wrong man” for the job:
HOEKSTRA: I’ve got a lot of respect for Mike Hayden. I think he’s done a very good job in the positions that he’s had. He’s got a distinguished career.
Bottom line, I do believe he’s the wrong person, the wrong place, at the wrong time. We should not have a military person leading a civilian agency at this time.
WALLACE: Well, explain that, because there have been, I think, a half dozen military people leading the CIA over the years, I guess most recently, back in the Carter administration, Admiral Stansfield Turner. So this is not unprecedented.
HOEKSTRA: It’s not unprecedented. It’s a bad time. You know, there’s been a tremendous amount of tension between the CIA, Department of Defense, the intelligence community over the last 18 months. It was highlighted in the fact that when we did intelligence reform, the biggest opponent to doing intelligence reform was the Department of Defense.
There’s ongoing tensions between this premiere civilian intelligence agency and DOD as we speak. And I think putting a general in charge — regardless of how good Mike is, putting a general in charge is going to send the wrong signal through the agency here in Washington, but also to our agents in the field around the world.
Of course, Hoekstra is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, which has no role in confirming the CIA director. But in the Senate, Intelligence Committee member Saxby Chambliss, a solid supporter of President Bush, said that Hayden’s military status could be a “major problem.” And to suggestions that Hayden might resign from the Air Force before taking the job, Chambliss said, “Just resigning commission and moving on, putting on a striped suit, a pinstriped suit versus an Air Force uniform, I don’t think makes much difference.”
The feeling on much of Capitol Hill — although certainly not unanimous — is that since the Defense Department controls more than 80 percent of the intelligence budget, there should be a civilian authority overseeing, or at least balancing, that DoD influence. That feeling is based on the general respect for civilian control of the military but also, in the words of one Senate Republican, on the fact that “you have Rumsfeld and [key Pentagon aide Stephen] Cambone trying to extend their reach into the intelligence world.”
It is not well known, but the Fiscal Year 2006 Intelligence Authorization bill contained a provision that the head of the CIA be a civilian. It was never enacted into law, but it had bipartisan support then and now. Here is a section from the Senate report on that bill, which was never completed:
Section 421 also requires that both the Director and Deputy Director of the CIA be appointed `from civilian life.’ The considerations that encourage appointment of a military officer to the position of DNI or PDDNI do not apply to the leadership of the CIA. Indeed, given the CIA’s establishment in 1947 as an independent civilian intelligence agency with no direct military or law enforcement responsibilities, the Committee does not believe that a similar construct of military leadership is appropriate at that agency. Accordingly, the Committee recommends that both the Director and Deputy Director of the CIA should be appointed from civilian life. To preserve the important liaison relationship between the military and the CIA, Section 426 of this Act removes a limitation that might have otherwise discouraged the appointment of a military officer to serve as the Associate Director of the CIA for Military Support. In Section 426, the Committee recognizes the important role played by the Associate Director of the CIA for Military Support by ensuring that an officer of the armed forces assigned to the position cannot be counted against the numbers and percentages of the grade of that officer authorized for that officer’s armed force.
Unlike the requirement that the Secretary of Defense be appointed `from civilian life’ (see 10 U.S.C. 113(a)), Section 421 does not contain any limitation on how long a nominee must have been `from civilian life’ prior to appointment. The only restriction is that an active duty officer must first retire or resign his or her commission and return to civilian life prior to being appointed as either the Director or Deputy Director of the CIA. Thus, the President retains the flexibility to nominate candidates with significant military experience for either or both positions.
The Committee recognizes that the person presently engaged in the administrative performance of the duties of the Deputy Director of the CIA is an active duty commissioned officer. The prohibition on an active duty commissioned officer serving as the Deputy Director of the CIA and the requirement that the position be filled by a Presidential nominee confirmed by the Senate will not take effect until the earlier of the date the President nominates an individual to serve in such position or the date the individual presently performing the duties of that office leaves the post. To insulate the current officer from undue military influence, Section 421 provides that so long as the individual continues to perform the duties of the Deputy Director of the CIA, he may continue to receive military pay and allowances, but he is not subject to the supervision or control of the Secretary of Defense or any of the military or civilian personnel of the DoD, except as otherwise authorized by law.
That is not to say that some Republicans do not support Hayden; Sen. John McCain had encouraging words for him today. But it does suggest that Hayden, if nominated, will face serious problems from a bipartisan group of senators, and a simple resignation from military service might not be enough to resolve the problem.