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Intelligence panel gets new chief

His 'reforming' experience cited

CHICAGO -- US Representative Peter Hoekstra, Republican of Michigan, was picked yesterday to head the House Intelligence Committee amid a heated debate in Congress over how to carry out a major overhaul of the nation's intelligence system.

The six-term congressman would succeed Representative Porter Goss, Republican of Florida, who has been nominated by President Bush to head the Central Intelligence Agency.

''Pete has big shoes to fill, but I'm confident he will do an excellent job," House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert said as he announced his choice at a news conference with Hoekstra at his side.

''He has the maturity and experience on the reforming side," Hastert said.

Hastert, Republican of Illinois, noted that Hoekstra had gone on a number of missions to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Persian Gulf for the committee over the past year.

Hoekstra, 50, who was born in the Netherlands and came to the United States as a youngster, currently serves on the intelligence committee and represents a district in western Michigan. The former furniture company executive has served on the intelligence committee since 2001.

The House and Senate intelligence committees are expected to take crucial roles as Congress debates whether to create a new post of national intelligence director to oversee the 15 agencies that now make up the intelligence community.

The Sept. 11 commission recommended such a post, and the Senate committee's chairman, Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, proposed a radical overhaul this week that would create the intelligence director post, break up the CIA, and move three top intelligence agencies out of the Pentagon.

Hoekstra said yesterday that there is a ''growing consensus across the executive and legislative branches" in favor of a national intelligence director. He also said that a national intelligence director should have ''some level of budgetary authority," something that has been hotly debated in Washington.

President Bush supports the idea of a national intelligence director but has not said how much authority that job should have, or whether he supports Roberts's proposal.

The CIA and the Pentagon have expressed strong concerns about Roberts's plan.

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