U.S. lawmakers, concerned about intelligence lapses prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and faulty intelligence about Iraq's weapons in the run-up to the U.S.-led war in that country, created the national director position as part of a broader intelligence reform initiative.
In his new post, Mr. Negroponte will coordinate the gathering and sharing of intelligence by the nation's 15 spy agencies.
Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, says Mr. Negroponte, a career diplomat, is the right person for the job.
"Clearly, Ambassador Negroponte will face significant challenges," he said. "He is going to carry heavy burdens. But I am convinced, however, that he has the character, he has the expertise, and he has the leadership skills required to successfully meet these challenges and to shoulder these responsibilities."
Mr. Negroponte's most recent position was as U.S. ambassador to Iraq, where he served for nine months. Before his service in Baghdad, he was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
He has also held ambassadorships in Honduras, Mexico and the Philippines.
Some Democrats are concerned by Ambassador Negroponte's tenure in Honduras, from 1981 to 1985, when human rights groups say he turned a blind eye to human rights abuses.
"I find it especially troubling that the Ambassador's perception of the human rights situation in Honduras differs so dramatically from that expressed by the Central Intelligence Agency, the Inter-American Court, the Honduras Human Rights Commission, and others," said Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon (D), who voted against the nominee.
But most Democrats, including the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, supported the nomination, and helped confirm Mr. Negroponte.
"If anybody can succeed in the position of DNI, director of national intelligence, an entirely new position in the United States government, one of the three or four toughest jobs in Washington, I would suggest, that person is Ambassador Negroponte," he said.
Senator Rockefeller used the debate over the confirmation to call for a Senate probe into the role played by U.S. intelligence operatives in the prisoner abuse scandals in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Chairman Roberts responded that the abuse scandals have been extensively investigated. He said another review would be unnecessary and impractical, and would hurt morale of U.S. troops and intelligence personnel.