Scope of the Position:

The Director of National Intelligence is the chief administrator of the intelligence community, a group of 16 agencies that gather sensitive information for the protection of the United States. The Director reports directly to the President, serving as one of his or her advisors. The Director is also expected to manage sensitive information and its dispersion to high-level government personnel and the general public.

Illustrative Management Challenges:

As the intelligence community (IC) continues to be scrutinized in the public eye, there has been a movement by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to pave the way for reducing the amount of classified information across agencies.1 The outcome of future initiatives will be underscored as a result of the introduction of a charter for transparency that ODNI introduced to have transparency practices become a comprehensive and sustainable practice within the intelligence community.2 In a similar vein, there is a movement headed by incumbent Director James Clapper to make the need for classifications more open. In other words, information that should not require a clearance-for reasons such as use by first responders and law enforcement-would be available, which it currently is not.3 There will be pressure on the Director to continue pushing for these changes as he continues on with his appointment.

Increasing Diversity in the Workforce

Recently, President Barack Obama ordered the nation's national security agencies to make a greater effort to recruit, hire, and retain more qualified minorities.4 This is in response to the strikingly low minority representation in the intelligence community (24.6 percent), according to an annual report from the ODNI. The Director of National Intelligence faces the difficult management challenge of reviewing the various restrictions that qualify certain candidates to serve in certain positions within the intelligence community, in an effort to increase the presence of minorities. In dealing with an issue as sensitive as intelligence and national security, the Director will have to walk a fine line in addressing this issue.


      1Spy Chief Instructs Intel Community to Serve as Government's Declassification Role Model;; April 6, 2016.
      2Famously Secretive Intel Community Charters Council to Promote Transparency;; April 11, 2016.
      3Intelligence chief pushing for spy agency Wi-Fi, clearance overhaul;; May 17, 2016. 4Obama orders diversity measures for national   
       security agencies;; October 5, 2016.

National Intelligence Directors:

Given the relative newness of the office, the ideal background for Directors of National Intelligence has not yet been established. Most come from extensive military backgrounds, though, often with a focus in intelligence.

Current Incumbent:

James R. Clapper (2010-Present): Clapper was the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence prior to his current position. In 2001, he became the Director of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) and transformed it into the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), which it is today. After his retirement from the military in 1995, Clapper entered into the private sector with a focus on intelligence, and eventually became an advisor to different Cabinet-level departments and to Congress itself. Clapper began his career with 32 years of military service.

Previous Deputy Secretaries:

Dennis Blair (2009-2010): Blair is currently the chair of an advisory committee for Lockheed Martin Space Systems. He has served as the Director of companies such as Tyco, EDO Corporation, and Iridium. Blair became the President and CEO of the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA) in 2003 after having served in the U.S. Navy for 34 years.

John M. McConnell (2007-2009): McConnell is currently a Senior Executive Advisor at Booz Allen Hamilton. In 1992, he began serving as the Director of the National Security Agency, while serving the last of his 29 years in the U.S. Navy. He also served as a member of the Director of Central Intelligence's senior national leadership team.

John D. Negroponte (2005-2007): He currently acts as the chairman of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA). After completing his tenure as Director, Negroponte was Chairman of the Council of the Americas/Americas Society.  He has been a U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Honduras, Iraq, the United Nations, and the Philippines. Negroponte also served as the Executive Vice President of the McGraw-Hill Companies, as well as holding a faculty position at his alma mater, Yale University.

Additional Resources: