WASHINGTON – President Bush named a new intelligence chief Friday as his current top spy man stepped down to try his hand at a State Department post.
John Negroponte, an Iraq specialist, who oversees the nation's 16 intelligence agencies and reports directly to the president, is leaving his position to serve as deputy to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Bush tapped former National Security Agency Director Mike McConnell, a retired Navy vice admiral, as Negroponte's replacement.
"Admiral McConnell has decades of experience, ensuring that our military forces had the intelligence they need to fight and win wars," Bush said at an appearance with Negroponte and McConnell in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. "I am confident he will give me the best information and analysis that America's intelligence community can provide."
Both Negroponte and McConnell must be confirmed by the Senate.
"I would hope that Negroponte and McConnell will be confirmed as quickly as possible," Bush said.
McConnell thanked Bush for the opportunity to serve.
"I'm excited about returning," McConnell said. "I hope to be quickly, directly relevant to build on the many accomplishments of Ambassador Negroponte and the team."
He added: "Public service has always been my passion. I look forward to serving this great nation as we continue to fight the global war on terrorism and to face the many challenges of the next century."
Congress created a national intelligence director position two years ago to coordinate the 16 disparate U.S. spy agencies. Bush said he was confident that the Senate would confirm both nominees.
The departure of Negroponte, 67, comes as Bush develops a new strategy on Iraq, which he could outline to the nation next week. The president has ordered reviews from his own agencies and the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which recommended a series of changes to reverse the "slide toward chaos."
"If confirmed by the Senate as deputy secretary of state, I look forward to supporting Secretary Rice in carrying out your foreign policy goals," Negroponte said.
Negroponte thanked Bush for asking him to serve as the nation's first national intelligence director.
"It's been a great honor, Mr. President, to serve as your first director of national intelligence. I will always be grateful to you for having given me the opportunity to help achieve the goals that you and the Congress set for intelligence reform," Negroponte said.
Bush's announcement follows news Thursday that White House counsel Harriet Miers was resigning from her post. Meanwhile, a senior administration official told FOX News that U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad will be nominated to replace John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
McConnell has years of intelligence experience in intelligence operations. He served as National Security Agency director from 1992 to 1996 and was the top intelligence officer under Gen. Colin Powell during the first Gulf War.
McConnell is currently a senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton, a government contractor and consulting agency firm.
McConnell said threats to the nation's security require an increased response by the intelligence community.
"Unlike just a decade ago, the threats of today and the future are moving at increasing speeds and they cross organizational and geographic boundaries. This will require increased, coordinated responsiveness by our community of intelligence professionals," McConnell said.
Negroponte has been at the center of Bush's Iraq strategy. He was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations when Secretary of State Powell made his now-infamous, error-filled presentation there in arguing for the invasion of Iraq. Negroponte became the U.S. ambassador to Iraq in June 2004, and was there for the January 2005 elections that Sunni Muslims boycotted.
Soon after, the White House asked him to take a job that others had already turned down because Congress didn't give the position enough power: National intelligence director.
Some doubted the wisdom of creating such a slot, worried it would only further weigh down an unwieldy bureaucracy. Negroponte leaves as the success or failure of that endeavor remains an open question.
Senate Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., whose panel must approve McConnell's nomination, said he was troubled by the timing of Negroponte's departure because it leaves a void while his organization is still in its infancy.
Rockefeller and the committee's top Republican, Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri, both said that a new intelligence chief must be in place before Negroponte leaves.
"A premature departure creates an unneeded vacuum within the DNI office at a critical time," Bond said.
FOX News' Wendell Goler and The Associated Press contributed to this report.