Bush Nominates Negroponte to New Intel Post
Iraq Ambassador Will Return to Washington
President Bush today named veteran diplomat John D. Negroponte to the new post of national intelligence chief, picking the current ambassador to Iraq and former envoy to the United Nations in a surprise choice to oversee 15 intelligence agencies.
If confirmed by the Senate, Negroponte, 65, will assume a post created by legislation aimed at overhauling the nation’s intelligence system. He was appointed by Bush last year as the first U.S. ambassador to Iraq after the ouster of Saddam Hussein and recently announced, without explanation, that he would be leaving that post.
Bush named as Negroponte’s deputy the current head of the National Security Agency, Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden. A career Air Force intelligence officer, Hayden heads the nation’s largest intelligence service, and his appointment to be deputy national intelligence director served to underscore the significance that Bush is attaching to the top job.
“As DNI [director of national intelligence], John will lead a unified intelligence community and will serve as the principal adviser to the president on intelligence matters,” Bush said in making the announcement. He said Negroponte would have authority over budgets and that the CIA director would report to Negroponte. Bush also said that Negroponte would be “my primary briefer” on intelligence on a daily basis and would have regular access to the president, although he would not work in the White House.
Negroponte, speaking after Bush introduced him at a televised announcement ceremony and press conference, said that “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,” and one essential to preventing international terrorism and protecting national security.
He said he would also concentrate on reform of the intelligence community.
“I appreciate your confidence in choosing me for what will no doubt be the most challenging assignment I have undertaken in more than 40 years of government service,” Negroponte told Bush.
The position of national intelligence director was established by legislation last year as a means of better coordinating the work of the U.S. intelligence community following the breakdowns that preceded the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The new director will oversee agencies with combined budgets of more than $40 billion, and Bush made clear that Negroponte would have considerable authority over setting those budgets and other matters.
Negroponte “will have the authority to order the collection of new intelligence, to ensure the sharing of information among agencies, and to establish common standards for the intelligence community’s personnel,” Bush said. “It will be John’s responsibility to determine the annual budgets for all national intelligence agencies and offices and to direct how these funds are spent. Vesting these in a single official who reports directly to me will make our intelligence efforts better coordinated, more efficient and more effective.”
Bush said that while CIA Director Porter J. Goss would report to Negroponte, the CIA would “retain its core of responsibilities for collecting human intelligence, analyzing intelligence from all sources and supporting American interests abroad at the direction of the president.”
He also noted that the intelligence overhaul legislation “preserves the existing chain of command and leaves all our intelligence agencies, organizations and offices in their current departments,” and he said that U.S. military commanders “will continue to have quick access to the intelligence they need to achieve victory on the battlefield.”
As a career diplomat who has served in eight nations on three continents, Bush said, Negroponte brings needed skills to the job of helping to ensure greater information sharing among federal agencies and state and local authorities.
He said Negroponte’s service in Iraq, where he assumed the post of ambassador in June 2004, “has given him something that will prove an incalculable advantage for an intelligence chief: an unvarnished and up-close look at a deadly enemy.”
Asked about potential power struggles in Washington over budget authority, Bush said, “That’s why John Negroponte is going to have a lot of influence. He will set the budgets.”
Bush added, “Listen, 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’s a diplomat....... 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.”
Negroponte began his diplomatic career in 1960 and served in South Vietnam before becoming an aide to Henry Kissinger during negotiations in Paris with North Vietnam. From 1981 to 1985, he was U.S. ambassador to Honduras, where he helped carry out the Reagan administration’s efforts, using the Contra rebels, to oust the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. He also served as ambassador to Mexico and the Philippines.
After leaving the diplomatic service in 1997, Negroponte worked as a senior executive with the McGraw-Hill publishing company. In 2001, Bush appointed him as ambassador to the United Nations, a post he held until he was named ambassador to Iraq last year.
A 1960 graduate of Yale University, the London-born son of a Greek shipping magnate speaks five languages.