WASHINGTON – John Negroponte (search) was sworn in Thursday as the nation's first national intelligence director, just minutes after the Senate voted to confirm the former diplomat to a post fraught with the challenges of coordinating and improving the government's disjointed spy agencies.
FOX News confirmed not long afterward that White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card swore in Negroponte just 45 minutes after the Senate's action while President Bush stood as a witness. Negroponte will take over the task of giving Bush a daily briefing on intelligence matters, probably beginning next week, presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said.
"I commend the Senate for moving quickly to confirm John Negroponte as the first director of national intelligence. I congratulate John on his confirmation, and I look forward to working closely with him," Bush said in a written statement distributed by the White House after the vote.
"As the DNI, Ambassador Negroponte will lead a unified intelligence community as it reforms and adapts to the new challenges of the 21st century ... I appreciate John's willingness to once again serve his country and the many men and women who serve in the intelligence community."
Negroponte, 65, is filling a position that was created in December upon the recommendation of the Sept. 11 commission (search) that investigated agencies' inability to head off the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The overhaul resulting from the panel's recommendations is the biggest in the intelligence community since 1947.
Several lawmakers and political analysts have suggested that the job may be too tough for one person, particularly when the amount of power given to him could be challenged by bureaucrats in other agencies. Already during negotiations, Congress was forced to compromise on limiting the amount of influence Negroponte will have among the Defense Department intelligence units.
The Pentagon controls 80 percent of the intelligence community's estimated $40 billion budget.
Negroponte's supporters in the Senate, however, said they have considerable faith in him.
"He's going to carry heavy burdens," Senate Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, said before the vote. "I am convinced, however, that he has the character, that he has the expertise, and he has the leadership skills to successfully meet these challenges and shoulder these responsibilities."
"Reform of the intelligence community will involve stepping on the turf of some of the most powerful bureaucracies in Washington, first and foremost among those is the Department of Defense," West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the top Democrat on the intelligence panel, said Thursday.
Rockefeller said the two met for 90 minutes recently about changes that may be needed in the new law.
Recognizing how difficult the post will be, the 40-year veteran of government service called it his "most challenging assignment."
Among the first tasks Negroponte will have to pursue is to establish his authority over the 15 agencies in the intelligence community. He will be responsible for coming up with a flowchart for sharing responsibility for and responding to everything from recruiting spies to studying satellite imagery.
In announcing Negroponte's nomination in February, President Bush said, "If we're going to stop the terrorists before they strike, we must ensure that our intelligence agencies work as a single, unified enterprise."
Negroponte, who speaks five languages and has held official posts in eight countries, served as a member of President Reagan's National Security Council from 1987-1989 after serving as the U.S. ambassador to Honduras.
Wyden said Negroponte's time in Honduras is the reason why he voted against the nominee. The senator said Negroponte was too evasive at his confirmation hearing last week, inadequately reported human rights abuses by death squads in Honduras and aided Contra rebels during the fight between the guerrillas and the Sandinista government in neighboring Nicaragua.
"I believe the record of the ambassador's service there is particularly telling in terms of his judgment and his willingness to confront difficult facts, which I believe are two key requirements for the director of national intelligence," Wyden said.
While Negroponte's support crossed party lines, deeper political issues lie ahead. During debate on his confirmation, Rockefeller reiterated ongoing Democratic requests for a Senate investigation into U.S. interrogation policy and prisoner abuse. He said none of the many inquiries thus far have looked at the CIA's (search) role in cases that have reached around the globe.
Roberts said such an investigation would lead to partisanship and consume Negroponte's energy as he starts the new job.
"I am fast losing patience with what appears to me to be an almost pathological obsession with calling into question the actions of the men and woman who are on the front lines of the war on terror," he said.
FOX News' Kelly Chernenkoff and The Associated Press contributed to this report.