Negroponte Moving to Deputy State Department Post
John Negroponte, the National Intelligence Director, is going to move to the State Department as Condi Rice’s deputy.
John D. Negroponte, whom President Bush installed less than two years ago as the first director of national intelligence, will soon leave his post to become the State Department’s second-ranking official, administration officials said Wednesday. Mr. Negroponte will fill a critical job that has been vacant for months, and he is expected to play a leading role in shaping policy in Iraq. But his transfer is another blow to an intelligence community that has seen little continuity at the top since the departure of George J. Tenet in 2004 as director of central intelligence.
Mr. Negroponte had been brought to the intelligence job to help restore credibility and effectiveness to agencies whose reputations were badly damaged by failures related to the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and mistaken prewar assessments of Iraq’s illicit weapons. He has maintained a low public profile but provides Mr. Bush with a briefing most mornings.
President Bush has hailed the establishment of the intelligence post as an essential step in helping prevent another terrorist attack. On paper, the director of national intelligence outranks the deputy secretary of state, raising questions about why the White House would seek — and why Mr. Negroponte would agree to — the shift.
Administration officials from two different agencies said Wednesday that the leading candidate to become the new intelligence chief is J. Michael McConnell, a retired vice admiral who led the National Security Agency from 1992 to 1996. Admiral McConnell was head of intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Gen. Colin L. Powell during the first Persian Gulf war, in 1991.
Ed Morrissey, Josh Marshall, Michael Stickings, and Marc Schulman all express bewilderment that someone would resign a cabinet post for a deputy slot. My guess is that Negroponte is frustrated at his inability to affect change and is willing to take an on-paper demotion for real influence on the policy process.
By most accounts, little has changed under the DNI. Today’s USA Today account notes,
The office was designed to consolidate the information and capabilities of the separate and sometimes bickering intelligence agencies. Congress created it on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission and as a response to the intelligence failures and lack of communication between spy agencies leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks. Tying together the agencies has been difficult.
Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who was head of the House Intelligence Committee, said this summer that the office was “not adding any value” by enlarging the bureaucracy. The Michigan Republican said the office had actually lengthened the time necessary to make things happen in the rapidly changing world of national intelligence. “We want them to be lean and mean,” Hoekstra said.
Hoekstra acknowledged that communication among agencies had improved, and Negroponte’s staff pointed to a list the office compiled of 200,000 known terrorists.
This isn’t surprising; it took decades for the Secretary of Defense to establish even a modicum of control over the theoretically subordinate military Services. The Intelligence Community, which is comprised almost entirely of people who think they’re smarter than the political appointees at the top of the chain of command and which has a lone wolf mentality on the ops side, may be even harder to change.