Pentagon Official Tapped As Intelligence Chief

Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence James Clapper i

Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence James Clapper, seen here in April, is expected to be nominated to the post of Director of National Intelligence. J. Scott Applewhite/AP hide caption

itoggle caption J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence James Clapper

Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence James Clapper, seen here in April, is expected to be nominated to the post of Director of National Intelligence.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

President Obama plans to nominate Pentagon official James Clapper to be his next intelligence chief, sources tell NPR.

Clapper is a retired three-star Air Force general with a long career in intelligence. He has headed both the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency, which specializes in satellite reconnaissance.

Clapper's name immediately surfaced as the leading candidate to replace Adm. Dennis Blair, who was forced to resign two weeks ago from his post as the director of national intelligence.

A senior defense official said U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is a strong supporter of Clapper.

When Gates become defense secretary in December 2006, during the Bush presidency, Clapper was the only official he hired. He was also one of only a handful of people Gates asked the Obama administration to keep on through the transition.

"Gates has been a strong advocate of him [Clapper] taking this job," the official said. "He has known and worked with Clapper for decades and he has enormous trust and confidence in him."

As deputy secretary of defense for intelligence, Clapper now oversees the vast Pentagon intelligence apparatus. In that capacity, however, he has had some quarrels with the intelligence committees on Capitol Hill, where reaction to the expected nomination was negative, especially from the Republican side.

In a statement issued in response to reports of Clapper's selection, the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri, said Clapper "lacks the necessary clout with the president, has proven to be less than forthcoming with Congress, and has recently blocked our efforts to empower the DNI. At this time I'm not inclined to support him."

But Clapper is popular within the intelligence community. Sources at the office of the Director of National Intelligence say he met with key staff there this week to discuss the job.

Sources say a White House announcement of Clapper's nomination is forthcoming.

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