WASHINGTON -- When Deputy Defense Secretary John Deutch was last asked to take over as the nation's top spymaster, he played the reluctant suitor. But now he says he's enthusiastic about the job and associates predict he will give it all the bullish energy he's displayed as the Pentagon's No. 2 man.
The 56-year-old Mr. Deutch was widely touted as a candidate for director of central intelligence after R. James Woolsey resigned the post in December, but Mr. Deutch declined the job at that time.
An intensely intellectual man, Mr. Deutch has published front-page scientific articles in some of the nation's most highly respected scientific journals. And he has immersed himself in the high-tech realm of the nation's intelligence-gathering and mastered the details of the military's spy satellite networks, an associate said.
Tall and barrel-chested, he presents a physical presence almost as imposing as his intellect. He has a reputation as a demanding boss with a brusque demeanor and little patience for staff members who have not done their homework.
Bruised egos are no impediment to decision-making, said a top Pentagon official who has worked closely with Mr. Deutch. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.
"Some things he just intuitively believes are the right thing to do . . . and he forces the system to get going."
That no-nonsense style is a hallmark of his personal life as well.
One day in January, Mr. Deutch left the office at lunchtime, got married at a Virginia courthouse and was back at his desk later that afternoon.
But he has clearly tried to soften his image in recent months.
Polishing up his rumpled-professor look, he has appeared more frequently in the Pentagon press room sporting natty suits and ties and patiently responding to reporters' queries with "That's a good question," and a broad smile.
He is a Washington insider and East Coast intellectual.
Though he was born in Brussels, Belgium, he grew up inside the Beltway and attended one of Washington's most exclusive private high schools. He earned a doctorate in physical chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and taught briefly at Princeton University before returning to MIT as a member of the faculty, and later provost, in 1970.
During the Carter administration, Mr. Deutch served as undersecretary in the newly created Energy Department.
Senior military intelligence officials -- who have complained for years about the quality and timeliness of the intelligence provided military commanders -- were delighted at the prospect that Mr. Deutch would head the CIA.
"He's the best one for the job," said one senior military officer who deals in intelligence matters. "It will be very helpful to have someone there who understands our needs."
Some Pentagon insiders say Mr. Deutch did not think he could do the job without fundamental changes in the White House's approach to intelligence matters, including greater access to President Clinton than Mr. Woolsey had enjoyed.
But others said Mr. Deutch simply wanted to hold on to the job he already had, which afforded the former chemistry professor and university provost wide responsibility.
"The most difficult problem was he really does like his job as deputy secretary," said the top Pentagon official.
But now, colleagues say, Mr. Deutch feels good about taking on the CIA job and is confident he's up to the task.
"I look forward to this challenge with enthusiasm," Mr. Deutch said yesterday. "I look forward to working with [the president], the dedicated men and women of the intelligence communities and the Congress to strengthen the quality of our nation's intelligence service."
In recent weeks, many of the Pentagon's most vexing issues have fallen under Mr. Deutch's charge -- everything from recommending military base closures to deciding the fate of top weapons systems as the Clinton administration developed its fiscal 1996 military budget.
He played a major role in developing the Pentagon's plan for last fall's mission in Haiti and is actively involved in the push to understand the mysterious illnesses that plague Persian Gulf war veterans.
JOHN MARK DEUTCH
AGE-BIRTH DATE -- 56; July 27, 1938, in Brussels, Belgium. Became U.S. citizen in 1946.
EDUCATION -- Sidwell Friends School (Washington); B.A., Amherst College; B.S. and Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
EXPERIENCE -- 1961-1965, Office of Systems Analysis, Defense Department; 1966-1969, assistant chemistry professor, Princeton University; 1970-present, associate professor and professor of chemistry, MIT; 1977-1979, director of energy research, Energy Department; 1979-1980, undersecretary, Energy Department; 1982-1985, dean of science, MIT; 1985-1990, provost, MIT; 1993, undersecretary of defense; 1994, deputy secretary of defense.
FAMILY -- Married to Patricia Lyon Martin; three sons from a previous marriage, which ended in divorce.