WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s top intelligence official emerged yesterday as the leading choice for what is becoming known as one of the most thankless jobs in Washington: director of national intelligence. The office has taken its third victim.
James R. Clapper, now the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, is the White House’s leading candidate to replace retired Admiral Dennis Blair, who is resigning, according to two current US officials and a former military official.
Another candidate is Mike Vickers, the Pentagon’s assistant secretary for special operations, officials say, but a Defense Department official says he has not been contacted for an interview.
With three previous intelligence directors all saying the same thing, that the job description is flawed, who’d want it?
Candidates who were considered but apparently are no longer in the running include Marine Corps General James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and John Hamre, a national security veteran who heads the private Center for Strategic and International Studies. The word on both, officials say, is that they thought about it but did not want the job.
The popular refrain from across the IC, as the intelligence community calls itself, is that the director of national intelligence has “all the responsibility and none of the authority.’’
The man or woman President Obama chooses will have the job of making 16 separate intelligence agencies heel, from the CIA to the National Security Agency. That means forcing institutions that derive congressional support and funding by showing off their individual expertise and information to instead share that intelligence wealth equally.