McConnell to take over at ODNI

John Negroponte is leaving his post at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and moving to the State Department as the deputy secretary to Condoleeza Rice. Retired Navy Vice Adm. J. Michael McConnell is taking over for him at ODNI.

President Bush announced today that John Negroponte, the first head of the recently created Office of the Director of National Intelligence, is leaving his post and moving to the State Department, where he will become deputy secretary to Condoleeza Rice.

"The deputy secretary of State plays a key role in shaping American foreign policy," Bush said. "I have asked John Negroponte to serve in this vital position."

Taking Negroponte's place at ODNI, Bush said, will be retired Navy Vice Adm. J. Michael McConnell, who was director of the National Security Agency from 1992 to 1996. McConnell has been senior vice president for military intelligence and information operations for the Defense Department, Unified Combatant Commanders, military services and Defense agencies with Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. of McLean, Va., for the past 10 years. Both men will need Senate confirmation of their appointments.

"It is vital that they take up their new responsibilities promptly," Bush said. "I would hope they would be confirmed as quickly as possible."

ODNI officially opened in April 2005, based in large part on recommendations of the 9/11 Commission enacted in legislation passed by Congress in 2004. Its charter is to coordinate the intelligence efforts of all the 16 agencies that make up the national intelligence community.

Rumors he would be leaving have dogged Negroponte for months; just last month he insisted he would be staying at ODNI through the end of Bush's term. And other changes at the top of ODNI have made it difficult for the agency to establish its mission. Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden, Negroponte's principal deputy director, who came to ODNI at the outset, left in May 2006 to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency. An acting deputy, Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, has been in place since then.

Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Dale Meyerrose has been serving as associate director of national intelligence and CIO since December 2005.

In his remarks at Bush's press briefing, McConnell stressed that his priority will be to continue integrating information-sharing capabilities among intelligence agencies.

"Unlike just a decade ago, threats today are moving at increasing speed and moving across ... geographic boundaries," he said. "Our plan is to continue the strong emphasis on integration [to allow] better sharing of information, better focus on customer needs [and] deeper penetration of our targets" to support better decision-making for the executive branch and military leadership.

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