Career Diplomat Nominated as Deputy Secretary of State

By Jacquelyn S. Porth
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington – President Bush named two experienced public servants January 5 to help lead the United States, calling on retired Navy Admiral Mike McConnell to succeed the outgoing director of national intelligence as he tapped Ambassador John Negroponte to shift from that key intelligence post to the Number 2 job at the State Department to help shape U.S. foreign policy.

Bush said Negroponte will go back to the State Department at a crucial time to help lead and manage those who are defending U.S. interests around the world, and to help coordinate with other federal agencies supporting the foreign policy structure “so that America speaks to the world with one voice.”  The president said the ambassador’s sound judgment, as well as his expertise on Iraq and in prosecuting the War on Terror, “make him a superb choice" to be deputy secretary of state.

Bush called on the Senate to act swiftly to confirm Negroponte and McConnell.  He praised McConnell – who would leave his position as senior vice president at the consulting firm of Booz Allen Hamilton – for his intellect, character, and prior experience working with Congress, as well as his past service as director of the National Security Agency (1992-1996), one of the nation's 16 intelligence agencies.

As he discussed his return to public service, McConnell said existing and future threats to U.S. interests “are moving at increasing speeds and across organizational geographic boundaries” requiring ever greater coordination and response within the intelligence community.

Negroponte embraced the president’s nomination describing it as “an opportunity of a lifetime.”  His credentials to serve as deputy secretary of state include decades of assignments around the world as a senior Foreign Service officer who is fluent in Greek, French, Spanish and Vietnamese.

The career diplomat has served in eight countries in Europe, Latin America and Asia.  He served as a political aide to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the 1960s.  Later, he served the White House as deputy national security adviser to former National Security Adviser Colin Powell, who also served as secretary of state in President Bush's first administration.

It is his more recent endeavors, however, that will bring added value to the deputy position at the State Department that has been vacant since the summer of 2006.  Negroponte has had the ear of President Bush on a daily basis as he personally delivered the daily presidential intelligence briefing.  (See related article.)

The veteran diplomat served as the United States’ ambassador to Iraq in 2004, overseeing the buildup of an embassy staff in Baghdad following the allied invasion that removed Saddam Hussein from power.  In a 2005 speech to the World Affairs Councils of the Americas, Negroponte said he sought during his time there to focus on enhancing the Iraqi security forces’ abilities to shoulder a greater burden for “the defense of their own country which ultimately should lead to the possibility of us reducing and eventually withdrawing our military presence from that country.”

In his annual threat assessment presented to Congress in 2006, the director of national intelligence warned that if the jihadists in Iraq thwart the Iraqi government’s efforts “to establish a stable political and security environment, they could secure an operational base in Iraq and inspire sympathizers elsewhere to move beyond rhetoric to attempt attacks against neighboring Middle Eastern nations, Europe and even the United States.”

Negroponte also used his position to highlight concerns about weapons proliferation.  He warned against the possibility of North Korean produced fissile material winding up in the hands of terrorists.  He had praise, however, for the international Proliferation Security Initiative that seeks to intercept the spread of weapons of mass destruction or associated components and delivery systems.  (See related article.)


Negroponte became the first head of national intelligence in May 2005.  He gained additional experience managing a staff of more than 500 and exercised oversight for the budgets of all civilian and military intelligence agencies.  He used his position to implement an agenda of intelligence reform. 

He also served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (2001-2004) in the lead up to the 2003 Iraq invasion.  Earlier ambassadorial postings included Honduras (1981-1985), Mexico (1989-1993) and the Philippines (1993-1996).

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack described Negroponte as “a diplomat’s diplomat” as well as an individual with excellent judgment, long experience in Washington and overseas, and as someone who knows the international community and is respected by its members.

The nominee to be Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s deputy must be confirmed by the full Senate – a process Negroponte has navigated successfully on other occasions.  Articles about Negroponte describe him as a pragmatic foreign policy realist: he served both Republican and Democratic administrations and twice for different Bush administrations.  (See related article.)

A transcript of Bush’s announcement and remarks by Negroponte and McConnell is available on the White House Web site, as is a related fact sheet.