Reports out today indicate that John Negroponte is planning to leave his job as Director of National Intelligence to become Deputy Secretary of State.

This is a very curious move, one that leaves me scratching my head just a bit. The move is clearly a step down. Negroponte will be leaving a newly created, cabinet-level, highly powerful, high-profile position that is central to the GWOT to be come a Deputy, the number two person in State which, of late, has suffered and chaffed behind DoD and the Intel community under the Bush Administration.

On the one hand, maybe its a smart move. Negroponte is a diplomat at heart, a career Foreign Service Officer who has held several high-profile Ambassador posts. Given his recent posting to Iraq, perhaps he will be given a wide mandate to run the “new” Iraq policy Bush is set to announce. His high profile and political heft from his previous jobs may allow him to implement a policy across agencies.

On the other hand, maybe its a demotion and bad move. DNI is a very important position, one that needs a strong occupant to define the parameters of the new office. Perhaps Negroponte wasn’t doing as good of a job as needed there. Yet, this move now leaves the DNI without its top 2 officials. The Deputy DNI was Gen. Hayden, he recently left to become head of the CIA, and that job remains unfilled. This leaves a critical gap at the top of the US intelligence community.

At this point, I’m just not sure what to make of it.

UPDATE: Dan Drezner asks the same question and links to some interesting speculation.

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