James R Clapper tipped for US national intelligence role
The Pentagon's top intelligence official has emerged as the leading choice for what is fast becoming known as one of the most thankless jobs in Washington - director of national intelligence.
James R Clapper, now the defence under-secretary for intelligence, is the White House's leading candidate to replace retired Admiral Dennis Blair, who is resigning, according to two current US officials and one former military official.
Officials say another candidate is Mike Vickers, the Pentagon's assistant secretary for special operations, but a Defence Department official says he has not been contacted for an interview.
But with three previous intelligence directors all saying the same thing - the job description itself is flawed - who would want it?
Candidates who were considered but apparently are no longer in the running include Marine Corps General James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and John Hamre, a national security veteran who heads the private Centre for Strategic and International Studies. The word on both, officials say, is that they thought about it but didn't want the job.
The popular refrain from across the IC, as the intelligence community calls itself, is that the director has "all the responsibility and none of the authority".
The man or woman President Barack Obama chooses will have the job of making 16 separate intelligence agencies heel, from the CIA to the National Security Agency. That means forcing institutions that derive congressional support and funding by showing off their individual expertise and information - the more intel you take credit for, the more support and power you gain - to instead share that intelligence wealth equally.
Yet the director has to referee those fights with no funding oversight, and he or she can't use purse strings to make recalcitrant intelligence officials obey.
Former CIA Director Michael Hayden has gone on record complaining that the 2004 intelligence reform act - which officially created the DNI position - failed to address tough questions of crossed lines of authority, and left it to the director to sort out.
There are two competing theories on what type of DNI needs to follow Mr Blair's uncomfortable tenure - either an Obama insider whose access to the personal power of the president becomes his badge of authority, or someone who gets along with the people who already have that access.