President-elect Barack Obama plans to choose retired Adm. Dennis Blair to become the next director of national intelligence -- the president's chief intelligence adviser. The pick, which has not been officially announced but reported widely by major news organizations, is being viewed as a break from Bush administration policies, as Blair does not come from an intelligence background.
Blair is the former head of U.S. Pacific Command and spent about a year inside the CIA. He was praised for crafting counterterrorism military strategy shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and brings military experience to the intelligence post.
Blair, 60, would replace retired Adm. Mike McConnell, who has said he would stay on in the job if asked. Blair would be the third director of national intelligence.
The position was created by Congress in 2004 after investigations revealed that intelligence agencies failed to share information that might have averted the Sept. 11 attacks. That was followed by U.S. intelligence errors on the existence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
Blair's job will be to head an intelligence office that continues to struggle to keep information flowing between 16 separate and often fractious intelligence offices. He will be in charge of updating the president on reports from Iran to North Korea, from Iraq to Afghanistan.
The director of national intelligence also works closely with the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency.
Blair could face tough questioning from Congress during confirmation hearings.
After leaving the Navy, Blair became the president of the federally-funded, non-profit Institute for Defense Analyses while serving on the boards of two defense contractors that worked on the F-22 fighter jet.
Blair participated in two reviews of the F-22, including one that endorsed an Air Force proposal to buy the fighter jet on three-year contracts rather than one-year contracts, which would guarantee a multibillion-dollar revenue stream for three years.
Blair resigned from that post in 2006 after the Senate Armed Services Committee raised concerns about possible conflicts of interest. A 2006 Pentagon inspector general's report found that Blair took no action to influence the outcome of either of the two studies.
Blair served in the Navy for 34 years and he was chief of the U.S. Pacific Command during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He is also an expert on China, and he was an associate director for military support at the CIA.