By Rachael Levy and Warren P. Strobel 

The White House tapped former Pentagon and White House official Christine Abizaid to head the National Counterterrorism Center, one of the agencies the Biden administration has said it plans to use to counter an upswing in domestic terrorism.

It also picked Christine Wormuth as its nominee for secretary of the Army, the top civilian job heading the country's largest uniformed force. Both would be the first women to serve in their roles, if confirmed by the Senate.

Ms. Abizaid, who goes by Christy, has discussed a role with the Biden administration since December, a person familiar with the matter said. She previously served for nearly a decade as a counterterrorism intelligence officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency and worked on the National Security Council staff under President Barack Obama. After leaving government, Ms. Abizaid joined Dell Technologies, where she currently serves as an executive in operations.

Ms. Wormuth previously served as undersecretary of defense for policy during the Obama administration and as the senior director for defense policy on the National Security Council. She is currently director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation.

While the National Counterterrorism Center traditionally has focused on foreign terrorism, under President Biden it is expected to take on a greater role addressing domestic threats, working alongside other federal agencies, current and former officials said.

Faced with a surge in homegrown attacks in recent years, including the storming of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, the Biden administration has stepped up efforts in its first months to combat ideologically inspired domestic extremism.

The White House has ordered a federal policy review, increased funding to community grants and proposed additional funds for the Justice Department. It also has issued more robust warnings about the threat of domestic terrorism than the Trump administration did.

Ms. Abizaid declined to comment and the NCTC had no immediate comment.

The counterterrorism center was formed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to coordinate the sharing of intelligence on terrorism. It had a bumpy time under former President Donald Trump, who cut back its staff and last year fired its acting director, Russ Travers. Mr. Travers is now a top domestic-extremism adviser to Mr. Biden.

Nicholas Rasmussen, a NCTC director from 2014 to 2017, said he welcomed Ms. Abizaid's nomination, saying she would "think in new and innovative ways about the many terrorism-related challenges we are facing, to include the challenge posed by domestic terrorism."

Mr. Biden also nominated Anne Milgram, a former New Jersey attorney general and advocate of criminal-justice overhauls, to lead the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as it confronts the nation's opioid-abuse crisis and other challenges. The agency, which is part of the Justice Department, hasn't had a politically appointed, Senate-confirmed leader since the Obama administration.

Ms. Milgram is a former prosecutor who spent her early career as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan and has also worked as a civil rights prosecutor in the Justice Department.

Ms. Milgram has advocated data-driven, law-enforcement strategies in which policing is targeted and informed by crime statistics and other figures, rather than depending on what she has described as police officers' "gut instinct."

She is currently a law professor and a lawyer in private practice.

--Sadie Gurman contributed to this article.

Write to Warren P. Strobel at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 12, 2021 19:34 ET (23:34 GMT)

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