Gates offers strong support to Clapper

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on Sunday strongly backed the nomination of James Clapper as the new Director of National Intelligence.

Seeking to ease congressional concern over the nomination, Gates called Clapper "the consummate intelligence professional who has the respect of virtually everybody in the community."

"The President could not have found a better person, a more experienced person, or with a better temperament to do this job and actually make it work, than Jim Clapper," Gates told reporters en route from Singapore to Baku, Azerbaijan.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who heads the Senate Intelligence panel, expressed concern about naming a military officer to the job. Clapper serves as the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence. 

“It will be important that any nominee is not beholden to the Pentagon’s interests and can, as needed, provide balance to civilian and military interests in carrying out the nation’s intelligence missions,” Feinstein said in a statement last week. 

Meanwhile, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence panel called Clapper the "wrong person" for the job and said that Clapper is not forthcoming with information to the committees with jurisdiction over intelligence matters. 

Gates on Sunday stressed that Clapper would be a good conduit between the civilian agencies and the military and that he has a "strong, long record" of adhering to congressional oversight and cooperating with congressional committees. The misunderstandings, Gates said, come in part from jurisdictional issues between the armed services and intelligence panels in Congress. 

"I have never heard a single complaint from the armed services committees about Jim’s forthcomingness," Gates said. "I think some of what you see is the jurisdictional conflict between the intelligence committees and the armed services committees in terms of who gets briefed on what."