The President lauded Clapper as “one of our nation’s most experienced and most respected intelligence professionals” during his address, and hopes the former Air Force general’s extensive military and intelligence community background will yield a successful confirmation process.
Clapper is currently the under secretary of defense for intelligence and previously headed up both the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Clapper thanked Obama for the nomination and noted that he was “honored, and daunted by the magnitude of the responsibilities of the position of DNI,” according to the White House Web site.
Previous directors have also been daunted, and confounded by the DNI role. Since its inception via the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, three different people have occupied the post. If confirmed, Clapper would be the fourth in five years, and beyond his normal duties would be burdened with proving that the role is even worthwhile.
The director of national intelligence is responsible for briefing and advising the President, National Security Council and Homeland Security Council on pivotal matters relating to intelligence and national security. The DNI is also the head of the 16-member intelligence community, a role previously carried out by the director of central intelligence.
But former DNI’s, like Blair, struggled to maintain authority over the labyrinthine network of agencies that comprise the intelligence community. Dr. Jay Williams, a professor of political science at Loyola University and retired Captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve, believes that organizational shortfalls may undermine the DNI’s ability to operate effectively.
“The problem is organizational,” Williams said. “The DNI doesn’t have authority over the others no matter what it says in the legislation. Unless he controls the budget, unless he can force decisions at the human level, at the organizational level, it just isn’t that effective.”
The director position was created after the September 11 terrorist attacks in response to perceived intelligence lapses, and was recommended in a report issued by the 9/11 Commission.