The new national intelligence chief is still searching for a deputy after six candidates were either rejected by the White House or turned down the job, according to people familiar with discussions about the key slot.

The nearly yearlong vacancy has come up repeatedly in talks on Capitol Hill and in private discussions at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The new spy chief, Mike McConnell, has addressed the issue with his employees during at least one town-hall-style meeting at his Bolling Air Force Base headquarters.

Several individuals in and out government described the personnel struggle on condition they not be identified.

Chad Kolton, a spokesman for McConnell, said the director is committed to filling the opening soon.

"It is an absolutely vital intelligence community and intelligence reform position," Kolton said Thursday. "But in addition to moving quickly, we want to make sure we find the right person for the job."