updated 4/27/2006 10:11:55 PM ET 2006-04-28T02:11:55

A senior FBI official is retiring less than a year after he took the bureau’s top national security post.

Gary Bald will step down as head of the FBI’s new National Security Branch on June 2, ending a nearly 29-year career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Director Robert Mueller said Thursday.

Mueller gave no reason for Bald’s decision but praised his leadership. Bald said the time was right to retire, “weighing our progress on implementation of the NSB as well as family considerations.”

The National Security office brings counterintelligence, counterterrorism and intelligence operations under one umbrella. It was recommended last year by a presidential commission and adopted by President Bush.

Before Mueller and John Negroponte, director of national intelligence, jointly announced Bald’s appointment in August, Republican Sen. Charles Grassley urged them to turn to someone else.

Grassley was irked because Bald testified in a civil lawsuit that he had no counterterrorism experience when he moved to headquarters to oversee anti-terrorism strategy in 2003. Bald’s deposition was among hundreds of pages of testimony in a suit by an Arab-American FBI agent that were obtained by The Associated Press.

“This is not a position for on-the-job training,” Grassley said in a letter to Negroponte. “I wanted to make sure that you were aware of Mr. Bald’s recent testimony about his background and expertise in counterterrorism.”

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