NATO diplomats carefully balance the top posts in the alliance, and Rose Gottemoeller, an American, held the No. 2 position. She is scheduled to step down this fall, to be succeeded by a former Romanian foreign minister, Mircea Geoana.
The appointment of a Romanian to the deputy post cleared the way for the United States to nominate someone for the intelligence job, allied diplomats said. The United States has one other of the seven assistant secretary general posts: John Manza leads the operations division, overseeing NATO activity in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Officials from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence hoped to tap a former senior official for the job, someone with experience in a top leadership post at the Pentagon or intelligence agencies, according to former American officials. But many of the top former officers were unacceptable choices to the White House, and other senior officials declined to be considered.
While Mr. Cattler does not have a high profile outside the intelligence world, he is well respected, former officials said. He serves as the chairman of the National Intelligence Management Council and as the national intelligence manager for the Near East for the director of national intelligence.
Mr. Cattler was an “inspired choice,” said Douglas Wise, a former C.I.A. officer and deputy head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. “He knows the civilian side of intel, the policy side and, with his military and D.I.A. background, knows the military intel side of things as well.”
Mr. Cattler is expected to continue the focus established by Mr. von Loringhoven. The alliance does not share specific intelligence on terrorism threats; those are shared bilaterally. Instead, allied officials said, it provides broad information on strategic trends within the Islamic State, Al Qaeda and other groups. On Russia, the intelligence sharing has been at times more tactical. Mr. von Loringhoven has also expanded the work beyond assessments of Russia’s military might to a deeper exploration of so-called hybrid threats, including interference campaigns, allied officials said.
In an interview, Mr. von Loringhoven emphasized that he has focused on threats to NATO, synthesizing and building on reports from various nations.