- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 17, 2005

President Bush yesterday named John D. Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, the United States’ first director of national intelligence, opting for a career diplomat over an intelligence veteran to oversee the nation’s 15 spy agencies.

Mr. Negroponte, who served in eight countries on three continents during nearly 40 years in the Foreign Service, will have control of the intelligence community’s $40 billion annual budget and will be responsible for delivering daily threat-assessment briefings to the president.

“Vesting these [responsibilities] in a single official who reports directly to me will make our intelligence efforts better coordinated, more efficient and more effective,” said Mr. Bush, who heeded the September 11 commission’s call for the position after the spy agencies were heavily criticized for failing to thwart the terrorist attacks.

While Mr. Negroponte, 65, was chosen for his diplomatic and managerial skills ” which he will put to use as he seeks to cut bureaucratic infighting and organize closer cooperation among the spy agencies, the president also picked a veteran intelligence official to work beside him.

Lt. Gen. Mike Hayden, a career Air Force intelligence officer who is director of the National Security Agency, the secretive code-breaking, eavesdropping agency, will serve as deputy director of national intelligence (DNI), the president announced yesterday.

With Mr. Negroponte at his side, Mr. Bush sought to allay fears among the spy agencies, saying that “everybody will be given fair access, and everybody’s ideas will be given a chance to make it to John’s office.”

“This is going to take a while to get a new culture in place, a different way of approaching the budget process. That’s why I selected John. … He understands the power centers in Washington. He’s been a consumer of intelligence in the past, and so he’s got a good feel for how to move this process forward in a way that addresses the different interests.”

But he said Mr. Negroponte, if confirmed by the Senate as expected, will wield unprecedented power because of his role as “primary briefer” on intelligence, a job previously handled by the director of the CIA, and his authority to force the agencies to share information and “to order the collection of new intelligence.”

Mr. Negroponte expressed his appreciation for the nomination to the post, which he said would “no doubt be the most challenging assignment I have undertaken in more than 40 years of government service.”

“Providing timely and objective national intelligence to you, the Congress, the departments and agencies, and to our uniformed military services is a critical national task ” critical to our international posture, critical to the prevention of international terrorism and critical to our homeland security,” Mr. Negroponte said.

“Equally important will be the reform of the intelligence community in ways designed to best meet the intelligence needs of the 21st century,” he said.

The nomination of Mr. Negroponte caught many observers off guard, but the longtime Foreign Service officer drew wide bipartisan praise yesterday.

“Ambassador Negroponte has served bravely and with distinction in Iraq and at the United Nations during a time of turmoil and uncertainty,” said Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia Democrat and ranking member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. “He brings a record of proven leadership and strong management.”

The senator, who on Wednesday had criticized the White House for leaving the post open for two months, also said the appointment of Gen. Hayden was “an excellent choice.”

“Their combined experience and the good chemistry they have personally should help ensure their effectiveness. Gen. Hayden’s detailed understanding of our intelligence capabilities and his commitment to reform will help the ambassador as he forges new ground as the first DNI,” Mr. Rockefeller said.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican, called the two nominations “outstanding choices” and said confirmation hearings would begin as soon as Mr. Negroponte finished his job in Iraq, which could be several weeks.

The DNI, which is not a Cabinet position, will be independent from the executive branch. Mr. Bush said Mr. Negroponte will not have a West Wing office, adding that he thought it “very important for the DNI to be apart from the White House.”

While Mr. Bush acknowledged that the coming changes could be “unsettling,” he said America’s security cannot be compromised because of territorial disputes.

“If we’re going to stop the terrorists before they strike, we must ensure that our intelligence agencies work as a single, unified enterprise,” he said. “In the war against terrorists who target innocent civilians and continue to seek weapons of mass murder, intelligence is our first line of defense.”

In December, Congress overwhelmingly approved legislation to reorganize the U.S. intelligence community, which created the director of national intelligence. The recommendation came from the September 11 commission that investigated the failure of the government to foresee the 2001 attacks.

Mr. Bush made clear that he expected the new intelligence chief to have power over the sometimes competing spy agencies, but vowed to keep his door open to the CIA.

“John and I will work to determine how much exposure the CIA will have in the Oval Office. I would hope more rather than less. The relationship between John and the CIA director is going to be a vital relationship; the relationship between the CIA and the White House is a vital relationship,” Mr. Bush said.

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