Bush nominates cyber expert to become next intell czar

President Bush nominated retired Vice Adm. J. Michael McConnell, a former National Security Agency director, to become the second director of national intelligence this morning. He will replace John Negroponte, nominated today to replace Robert Zoellick as deputy secretary of the State Department.

McConnell, a senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton, was NSA director from 1992 to 1996. Most recently, he led company efforts to establish responsibilities for computer network defense and attack missions for the Defense Department.

“While serving as NSA's director, McConnell was one of the first senior officials to identify information assurance and information defense as major strategic issues in our increasingly networked society,” Booz Allen Hamilton said in a statement.

McConnell also supported regional combatant commanders and the director of national intelligence. He also helped military intelligence directors in transformation, information technology systems development, horizontal integration and improved analytics.

Earlier, he led projects supporting the Presidential Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection, focusing on the vulnerabilities of the banking and financial sector, and development of Presidential Decision Directive 63 on critical infrastructure protection. He was intelligence director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the first Gulf War.

“Mike McConnell has the experience, the intellect and the character to succeed in this position,” Bush said at this morning’s press conference. Bush also praised McConnell’s work on protecting information systems.

Negroponte focused on McConnell’s experience as a longtime intelligence professional. “McConnell will continue to drive forward the reforms we’ve initiated, fully integrating the domestic, foreign and military dimensions of our national intelligence enterprise,” Negroponte said.

McConnell said he intends to focus on integration and information sharing. “The threats of today and the future are moving at increasing speed and across organizational boundaries,” he said. McConnell said his work at Booz Allen Hamilton allowed him to stay focused on the national security and intelligence communities. “In many respects, I never left,” he added.

As director of national intelligence, McConnell will be the principal adviser on intelligence issues related to national security to Bush, the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council. He will also lead the 16-agency intelligence community and an office staff of more than 1,500 employees.

The Office of the National Director of Intelligence was created in 2005 based on a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. McConnell must be confirmed by the Senate Intelligence Committee. Confirmation is expected next week.

McConnell holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Furman University and a master’s in public administration from George Washington University. He has also completed master’s-level programs at the National Defense University’s Industrial College of the Armed Forces and the Defense Intelligence College. In 2002, Consulting Magazine named him one of the top 25 most influential consultants.

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