Michael McConnell's nomination as head of Washington's 16 spy agencies tops a long career serving the many instruments of US intelligence gathering.
President Bush is looking Mr McConnell to steer the spy agencies
He is seen as a committed, capable official - broadly respected by the spy community and well known to senior figures in the Bush administration.
Naming him as the new Director of National Intelligence, President George W Bush said he had "decades of experience, ensuring our military has the intelligence it needs to fight and win wars".
A courteous man with a soft South Carolina accent, Mr McConnell became a naval intelligence officer after serving in Vietnam.
He came to prominence during the 1991 Gulf War, delivering intelligence about Iraqi forces to the military and political leadership of the time, including Defence Secretary Dick Cheney and Gen Colin Powell.
A tribute offered to him in the US Congress in 1996 said he had been "instrumental in saving US and coalition lives and directly contributed to bringing about a quick and decisive victory" in the first Gulf conflict.
'Candour and openness'
After the war, Mr McConnell was promoted to the rank of Vice Admiral and appointed head of the National Security Agency (NSA).
He led the agency from 1992 to 1996 - an era of rapid technological advances and drastic budget cuts.
Encryption technology developed during his tenure has been used to protect sensitive US electronic communications from enemy hackers.
Mr McConnell's deputy at the NSA, William P Crowell, told the New York Times newspaper he was a "consummate professional".
Another former colleague, Ronald D Lee, told the paper he was "an exceptionally gifted leader who was completely devoted to the rule of law and the constitution".
The Congressional tribute from 1996 praises his "candour and openness" in keeping Congress informed of the NSA's work.
Mr McConnell left the NSA to join the board of Booz Allen Hamilton, a management consulting firm, and stayed out of government for the next 10 years.
The firm has been a major recipient of intelligence outsourcing contracts offered by the Pentagon, according to federal records cited by the USA Today newspaper.
Ralph Shrader, Booz Allen Hamilton's chairman and CEO, told the paper Mr McConnell was a "hands-on" official, who can "solicit lots of opinions" and produce something that takes the needs of the entire country into consideration".
However, some officials have questioned whether his gentle touch will be suited to co-ordinating the diverse arms of US intelligence.
W Patrick Lang, a former intelligence official interviewed by the New York Times, said Mr McConnell's "competent but compliant" reputation meant he may not want to challenge his bosses on critical issues.