WASHINGTON – President Obama plans to nominate retired Gen. James Clapper as his next director of national intelligence, officials said Friday. The announcement is expected to come at a Rose Garden event today.

Clapper emerged as the front-runner immediately after the last director, retired Adm. Dennis Blair, stepped aside last month following a rocky tenure. But there were questions about whether Obama should pick another intelligence chief with a military background, and some key members of Congress said they had doubts about Clapper.

As news of Clapper’s nomination broke Friday, Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo., said he still had reservations. “I believe he is too focused on the Defense Department issues, and he has tried to block our efforts to give more authority” to the director of national intelligence, Bond said.

White House officials, however, said that Clapper has the stature and good working relationships with the administration that are required for the job. A senior administration official lauded Clapper in an interview earlier in the week, noting he had spent some 48 years serving his country.

If confirmed, Clapper will be the fourth director of national intelligence since the office was created five years ago on the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. The office has been troubled ever since, with little budget authority or ability to enforce decisions of the other intelligence agencies it is supposed to oversee.

Blair resigned after what officials said was a difficult year and a half in office, as he struggled to navigate the Obama administration — and in particular lost battles to the CIA director, Leon Panetta.

Clapper, 69, has spent more than 45 years in intelligence work and has worked well with non-military intelligence agencies, colleagues say. In 2004, as director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, he angered then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld when he suggested that the Pentagon’s four largest intelligence agencies — including his own — should report to the new director of national intelligence. He was forced out of his job in 2006.

“He’s the best guy for the job,” said Ellen McCarthy, executive director of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, who worked for Clapper from 2007 to 2009. “Not only does he know intelligence, he’ll be able to build up the intelligence community. It’s one of his strengths as a leader.”

McCarthy said two things hurt Blair: He lacked White House support and did not have a good relationship with the CIA. “I don’t think that Clapper is going to have any trouble working with the CIA,” she said, “And clearly he has the White House’s support.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.