Expert: Democratic control not a negative for Intel community

KISSIMMEE, Fla. ? The change in Congress from Republicans to Democrats should not have a direct negative effect on the intelligence community, according to a high-ranking committee staff director, but possible changes in recent budget practices could be harmful.

John Stopher, budget director for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, currently chaired by Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), told attendees at the GeoINT 2006 conference in Kissimmee, Fla., that support by Democrats for intelligence agencies should be just as strong as the Republicans' was.

On the other hand, the use of supplemental budgets over the past few years to fund the cost of the Iraq war ? and other miscellaneous programs that got buried in the details ? is more likely to come to an end, Stopher said.

"Both Democrats and Republicans are not enthusiastic about supplementals," he said. "If you presume that [some] percent of intelligence funding is in the supplementals, that's in trouble now. They want the funding back in the budget requirements."

Stopher also said that talk of acquisition reform is focusing on the wrong problem at the moment.

"There are people right now trying to fix the cost-estimating problem," he said. "There is a driving force for those people to never be wrong in their cost estimates again."

But the structure of the acquisition workforce, for instance, exacerbates problems that have nothing to do with program costs. When acquisition specialists are rotated through the National Reconnaissance Office every two years, even though it takes eight years to build something, that creates many of the problems, he said.

And the push toward firm fixed-price contracts is not a panacea, he said.

"We pride ourselves on building things that our adversaries can't imagine. You can't do that on firm, fixed pricing," he said.

GeoINT is the annual conference on geospatial intelligence, focused on but not limited to the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

Patience Wait is a staff writer for Washington Technology's affiliate publication, Government Computer News.

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