U.S. officials are providing more details about the impending resignation of National Intelligence Director John Negroponte and nomination of Adm. Mike McConnell.
The White House has been trying for more than a year to get Negroponte to take the No. 2 job at State and have McConnell replace him. On at least two, and possibly three occasions within the past 18 months, the White House approached each man about taking a new job.
The White House had grown impatient with Negroponte, believing that he had added a layer of bureaucracy to the intelligence community without adding much product. In particular, say officials, they did not believe that he was willing to butt heads with those who reported to him. Several issues they had hoped he would resolve were not being dealt with. Moreover, the DNI payroll had grown to more than 1,500 and the director's office was seeking a permanent headquarters building either near the State Department or in the Washington Navy Yards.
Both men were initially reluctant to take on their new jobs.
The decision to give Negroponte at least nominal control of Iraq policy within State assuaged that concern. (One official also speculated that Negroponte may have been promised the Secretary's job when and if Condoleezza Rice stepped down for whatever reason. The official noted that the first President Bush appointed Lawrence Eagleburger Secretary of State in the final days of his administration, rewarding Eagleburger for his years of diplomatic service, including as deputy secretary.)
Admiral Mike McConnell
McConnell, who has been successful in the private sector, was not opposed to taking the job but wanted certain assurances. The elevation of Bob Gates to Secretary of Defense helped persuade him to take the job. In 1992 when McConnell was director of the NSA and Gates the director of the CIA, Negroponte and McConnell liked the the idea of working with Gates. He quietly visited the President in Crawford over the Christmas holidays to finalize the decision. McConnell's appointment came with a strong recommendation from Vice President Cheney, for whom he had worked while at the Pentagon during the Gulf War. Unlike Negroponte, McConnell is an intelligence professional. The White House thinks his experiences with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Office of Naval Intelligence and National Security Agency will permit him to move quickly on issues that they thought Negroponte had avoided.