John Negroponte is vowing to streamline intelligence gathering and sharing, if he receives Senate confirmation to the newly-created post. He testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday.
"My job, if confirmed, will be to ensure that this community works as an integrated, unified, cost-effective enterprise, enabling me to provide the president, his Cabinet, the armed services, and the Congress with the best possible intelligence product, both current and strategic, on a regular basis," he said.
Congress created the position of national intelligence director, who will coordinate the work of 15 spy agencies, as part of a broader intelligence reform initiative, aimed at preventing another terrorist attack like those, which occurred on September 11, 2001.
Mr. Negroponte was nominated to the post after a lengthy diplomatic career. His most recent position was as U.S. ambassador to Iraq, where he served 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.
Committee chairman Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, said Mr. Negroponte is well prepared to be national intelligence director.
"He has worked on intelligence and national security issues all through his career, and, in that respect, I think, brings a great deal of experience to this position," he said. "Most important, Mr. Negroponte has a demonstrated record as an outstanding manager and a leader. He is well-suited to this position, and I look forward to his confirmation."
Senate Democrats pressed Ambassador Negroponte about his record, while serving in Honduras between 1981 and 1985, when human rights groups say he was aware of human rights abuses by death squads, partly trained by the Central Intelligence Agency. Mr. Negroponte has said he did not believe death squads were operating there. He told lawmakers the situation in Honduras was better than in other countries in the region.
"If you look at it in the context of what was happening in Central America at the time, I think Honduras' record compared quite favorably with the neighboring countries, and I would submit to you that improvements occurred during the time of my tenure there, including an administration of justice program, a revision of the penal code, and other efforts to deal with human rights issues in that country," he said.
Mr. Negroponte is expected to be confirmed by the Republican-led Senate.
Another, more controversial, nominee being considered by the Senate is John Bolton to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee heard testimony from a former State Department official, who testified that Mr. Bolton sought the dismissal of a low-level State Department analyst, who disagreed with Mr. Bolton's assessment that Cuba possessed banned weapons.
Carl Ford, who describes himself as a conservative Republican and a supporter of President Bush, said Mr. Bolton's behavior raises questions about his suitability for high office.
"He's a quintessential kiss-up, kick-down kind of guy," he said.
Mr. Bolton has denied he pressured the analyst to influence policy.
Senate Democrats are concerned by the allegations, and by Mr. Bolton's outspoken criticism of the United Nations, which he has described as ineffective and corrupt.
"This appointment, I believe Mr. Chairman, is not in the interest of the United States of America," said Senator Biden, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. "This appointment, I believe, is damaging to our national interests."
But the Republican chairman of the committee, Senator Richard Lugar, said the incident involving the analyst should not overshadow consideration of Mr. Bolton's overall fitness for the job as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
"The paramount issue, as I perceive it, is the reform of the United Nations, the confidence that President Bush and Secretary Rice have in this particular nominee as the person they believe is best able to effect the reforms that they believe are important to the United Nations and for this country," he said.
Although most Democrats are expected to oppose Mr. Bolton's nomination, the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, is expected to confirm Mr. Bolton as U.N. ambassador.