With questions arising over whether the administration is going to downsize or even cut the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), the White House fired acting director Russ Travers and sent his deputy Peter Hall back to his parent organization, the National Security Agency

President Trump on Tuesday appointed Christopher Miller to serve as his next permanent director of the NCTC.

“In this role, Mr. Miller [will develop] policy guidance and [oversee] the implementation of all Department of Defense policies, strategies, and plans related to special operations and combating terrorism,” the White House released in a statement.

Miller had been serving as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Combating Terrorism. He will take over the role previously held by Travers and before him Joseph Maguire. Maguire led the NCTC before he was appointed to serve as the administration’s Acting Director of National Intelligence — a post that he was fired from because of an aide’s comments regarding Russian interference in the 2020 election in favor of President Trump. 

Christopher Miller, the new head of the National Counterrorism Center, poses for his official photograph wearing the SF Regimental tie (U.S. Army photo).

Miller joined Special Forces in 1993 and served in numerous command and staff positions within the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) culminating with command of the 2nd Battalion, 5th SFG(A). Miller participated in the initial combat operations in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, in addition to numerous follow-on deployments to both theaters. He has extensive inter-agency and joint special operations experience. Miller is highly decorated: he has been awarded the Legion of Merit award and three Bronze Stars.

After retiring from the Army in 2014, Miller worked for over two years as a defense contractor in the clandestine Special Operations and Intelligence realm. He reported directly to the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Policy.

The NCTC was formed by President Bush right after 9/11 and is part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The Director’s job, according to the NCTC website, is to unify “counterterrorism intelligence for the homeland and abroad” and “driv[e] whole-of-government action” to protect the nation from attacks. 

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After the Maguire episode played out, Travers was brought in but he was let go in the midst of disagreements within the administration over hiring freezes and personnel cuts. Travers resisted the president’s urge to cut back on NCTC’s personnel, now that the threat from al-Qaeda and other terror groups has been diminished. Travers had the option of another assignment but opted to retire. 

Miller will oversee the 900-man NCTC, which is part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. (Many of NCTC’s officers and analysts are detailed from other agencies.)

President Trump may decide to cut down the NCTC and shift the personnel back to their parent agencies. However, some people in the government want the NCTC to shift its focus on right-wing fringe groups.