President Barack Obama tapped White House adviser Gayle Smith on Thursday to run the U.S. Agency for International Development, putting a former journalist and longtime Africa expert in charge of his global development agenda for the final years of his presidency.

Smith, the senior director for development and democracy at the White House's National Security Council, has had a diverse career working on humanitarian efforts in and out of government, including a former stint at USAID. If confirmed by the Senate, she'll replace former USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, who announced his resignation last year amid intense criticism over the agency's secretive programs in Cuba.

Obama, in announcing Smith's nomination, said she had earned his "full confidence" after working with him for nearly a decade, including six years in a top role at the White House.

"Gayle's energy and passion have been instrumental in guiding America's international development policy, responding to a record number of humanitarian crises worldwide, and ensuring that development remains at the forefront of the national security agenda at a time when USAID is more indispensable than ever," the president said in a statement.

Smith worked for nearly two decades in Africa as a journalist and consulting for non-governmental relief organizations. USAID conducts humanitarian aid and development projects around the world and works closely with the State Department.