Negroponte to Become Deputy Secretary of State

National Intelligence Director John Negroponte will resign to become deputy secretary of state, says a government official.

Negroponte took over in 2005 as the nation's first intelligence chief responsible for overseeing all 16 U.S. spy agencies. He will return to his roots as a career diplomat to become the No. 2 to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the official said Wednesday night.

The official said the timing of Negroponte's departure was uncertain, but it was expected soon. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the move has not been announced.

Negroponte, 67, is stepping down as President George W. Bush develops a new strategy for the Iraq war.

He has been at the center of the Iraq debate since before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, first as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, then as ambassador to Baghdad, now as intelligence chief. His move to the State Department must be confirmed by the Senate.

A spokesman for the Office of the National Intelligence Director refused to comment. White House spokesman Rob Saliterman also would not comment on the report because it involved a personnel matter.

In an interview last month with the cable television industry-financed C-SPAN television network, Negroponte indicated that he wanted to stay on through the Bush administration.

Yet his answer to the question would he "stay with it for a while?" did not close the door to a new assignment. Since last summer, it has been said he was interested in the vacancy at the State Department.

"In my own mind at least, I visualize staying with it through the end of this administration and, then I think, probably that'll be about the right time to pack it in," he told C-SPAN.

Robert Zoellick resigned as Rice's deputy in July to take a position with the investment bankers Goldman Sachs. Rice is said to have approached several candidates for the plum assignment that has gone unfilled for months.

As Negroponte fills that void, he will leave another in the newly created position of national intelligence director.

Congress created the post in late 2004 as recommended by the independent commission that investigated government actions before and after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Yet it has been at times a struggle for Negroponte and his staff to bring all 16 spy agencies together under one umbrella.

It was not immediately clear who would fill Negroponte's position. The job of his No. 2 has been vacant since Gen. Michael Hayden became CIA director in May.

NBC News, which first reported Negroponte's departure Wednesday, said his likely successor is retired Adm. Mike McConnell, director of the National Security Agency from 1992 to 1996. McConnell is now a senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton, a government contractor and consulting agency.