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The idea of a Director of National Intelligence (DNI) dates to 1955 when a blue-ribbon study commissioned by Congress recommended that the Director of Central Intelligence employ a deputy to run the CIA so that the director could focus on coordinating the overall intelligence effort. This notion emerged as a consistent theme in many subsequent studies of the Intelligence Community commissioned by both the legislative and executive branches over the next five decades. It was the attacks of September 11, however, that finally moved forward the longstanding call for major intelligence reform and the creation of a Director of National Intelligence.

Post-9/11 investigations included a joint Congressional inquiry and the independent National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (better known as the 9/11 Commission). The report of the 9/11 Commission in July 2004 proposed sweeping change in the Intelligence Community including the creation of a National Intelligence Director.

Very soon after the best-selling report was released, the federal government moved forward to undertake reform. President Bush signed four Executive Orders in August 2004, which strengthened and reformed the Intelligence Community as much as possible without legislation. In Congress, both the House and Senate passed bills with major amendments to the National Security Act of 1947. Intense negotiations to reconcile the two bills ultimately led to the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA), which President Bush signed into law on December 17.

In February 2005, the President announced that John D. Negroponte, ambassador to Iraq, was his nominee to be the first director of national intelligence and Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, USAF, as the first principal deputy DNI, which earned him his fourth star. On April 21, 2005, in the Oval Office, Amb. Negroponte and Gen. Hayden were sworn in, and the ODNI began operations at 7 a.m. on April 22, 2005.

Previous directors include John M. ("Mike") McConnell (Vice Adm., USN Ret.) and Dennis Blair (Adm., USN Ret.). James R. Clapper (Lt. Gen., USAF Ret.) is the current director of national intelligence.

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