Dec. 19, 2008 -- If confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the new Director of National Intelligence, Adm. Dennis Blair will become only the third person to have served as the nation's most important intelligence officer. The post, currently held by Mike McConnell, was created in 2004 as part of the intelligence community reforms that followed the attacks of Sept. 11.
Blair will be responsible for any intelligence that suggests the United States might be under threat of attack. The position was created to synthesize the analysis of the 16 agencies that make up the intelligence community. But critics have complained that bringing in what they see as another layer of bureaucracy hasn't necessarily improved the intelligence product.
Blair last held a job in government in 2002, the year he retired as commander of the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), which oversees all U.S. military forces in the Asia-Pacific region. The post capped a 30-year career in the U.S. Navy. Blair maintained government ties as president of the Institute for Defense Analyses, which is funded by Washington, from 2003-06.
Blair worked as a director in the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs at the Pentagon. He has also worked in the White House on the National Security Council and was the first associate director of central intelligence for military support.
Born in Kittery, Maine, in 1946, Blair graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1968. His classmates included Lt. Col. Oliver North and Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va. He earned a Rhodes scholarship and majored in Russian studies at Oxford University, overlapping there with former President Bill Clinton.
Blair's tenure as head of PACOM was marked by two international crises: the separatist struggle in East Timor at the end of the 1990s and the forced landing of a U.S. intelligence gathering aircraft on Hainan Island in China, where 24 U.S. personnel were held for 10 days. Blair also helped lead the effort to pass American intelligence to the Filipino military to aid its campaign against the rebel group Abu Sayyaf.
Despite his long string of leadership positions, Blair is not all business. He is known for having tried, as commander of the USS Cochrane in the mid-1980s, to waterski behind the destroyer.
ABC News' Martha Raddatz contributed to this report.