WASHINGTON - The Justice Department on Wednesday appointed a top FBI official and former U.S. attorney in Virginia to be the new acting head of the embattled Drug Enforcement Administration.

Chuck Rosenberg, chief of staff to the FBI director, will become acting DEA administrator, replacing Michele Leonhart, who retired in April after being harshly criticized during a Capitol Hill hearing. The hearing focused in part on allegations that her agents in Colombia had sex parties with prostitutes hired by local drug cartels overseas.

The allegations of the sex parties, revealed in a report by the Justice Department's inspector general, Michael Horowitz, led to a department review of the security clearances of the agents involved and a memo from then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. that warned all employees that soliciting prostitutes is a violation of department policy, even when employees are off duty.

The DEA is tasked with enforcing the nation's controlled-substances laws and regulations, and its agents investigate criminals and drug gangs here and abroad.

Rosenberg has worked closely for the last year and a half with FBI Director James B. Comey and other senior FBI officials on counterterrorism, cyber, intelligence, criminal investigative issues, and management issues.

"His judgment, intelligence, humility and passion for the mission will be sorely missed at FBI," Comey said in a statement.

Rosenberg is a veteran of the Justice Department. He was hired by the department out of the University of Virginia law school and served in many positions, including as counselor to the attorney general.

A nomination as permanent director would require Senate confirmation.