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Anthony Tata
Senior Official Performing the Duties of Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
Incumbent
Assumed office
November 10, 2020
President Donald Trump
Preceded by James H. Anderson (as Acting Under Secretary)
Senior Official Performing the Duties of Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy

In office
July 31, 2020 – November 10, 2020
President Donald Trump
Preceded by James H. Anderson (as Deputy Under Secretary)
Succeeded by Thomas M. Williams
Personal details
Born Anthony Jean Tata
September 7, 1959(1959-09-07) (age 62)
Norfolk, Virginia, U.S.
Political party Republican
Military service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1981–2009
Rank Brigadier General

Anthony Jean Tata[1] (born September 7, 1959) (/ˈttə/), is an American retired United States Army officer, author, and government official. He is a retired brigadier general of the United States Army (1981–2009), and later served as a school district administrator for two large school districts in the District of Columbia and North Carolina. He served as Secretary of Transportation of North Carolina from 2013 to 2015 under Governor Pat McCrory.[2] Tata is the author of the Threat series of thriller novels.

After leaving the Army, he became a regular on Fox News,[3] where he offered pro-Donald Trump commentary and promoted conspiracy theories.[3] He has falsely claimed that Barack Obama is a Muslim and "terrorist leader" and promoted a baseless conspiracy theory asserting that the CIA sought to assassinate Trump.[4]

In 2020, Tata joined the Pentagon in a senior civilian advisory role to Defense Secretary Mark Esper.[5] Trump nominated Tata to the post of Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, as reported by Politico on April 23, 2020.[6] His nomination was submitted to the Senate on June 11, 2020,[7] but a hearing on his confirmation was cancelled on July 30, and CNN reported that the White House planned to withdraw the nomination.[8] Later, Tata was appointed as "the official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy reporting to the acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, James Anderson."[9] Tata has served as the de facto acting Under Secretary under the official title "Performing the Duties of Under Secretary of Defense for Policy", since Anderson resigned following the November 2020 elections.[10]

Early life[edit | edit source]

Tata was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the second son of Robert Tata and Martha Jeraldine Morris Tata.[11] In 1981, Tata received a Bachelor of Science from the United States Military Academy and chose Infantry as his branch of service.[12] While serving as a National Security Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Tata earned a Master of Arts in International Relations from the Catholic University of America.[13] Tata is a graduate of the U.S. Army's Ranger School.[13]

Tata graduated from the School of Advanced Military Studies with a master's degree in Military Art and Science.[citation needed]

Career[edit | edit source]

Military[edit | edit source]

Tata served in the United States Army for 28 years, retiring in 2009 with the rank of brigadier general.[14][15] From 2006 to 2007, he was Deputy Commanding General of the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan.[13][16] Tata served two tours of duty at Fort Bragg in the 82nd Airborne Division. As the Chief of Plans for the 82nd Airborne Division, Tata led the planning effort for Operation Uphold Democracy.[17] He also was brigade commander in the 101st Airborne Division.[13]

Tata and his first wife (Tracy Lynn) divorced in April 1993 under acrimonious circumstances: his ex-wife filed a complaint against him with the Army's Office of Inspector General (OIG), triggering an investigation.[18] The OIG concluded in June 2007 that Tata had extramarital affairs in 1985 and 1992 while still married. The affairs involved three different women, and a son[19] born out of wedlock. Adultery is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice under certain circumstances.[15][18] Tata did not contest the finding of adultery, and Army leaders did not penalize him over the finding.[18] The OIG investigation also concluded Tata's ex-wife's other allegations were "not substantiated."[18] OIG's conclusion rejecting the allegation of failure to pay child support was based on a supposed 2001 Georgia court order submitted as evidence by Tata and his lawyer.[18] It was later determined, however, that the document was fraudulent, with the signatures of the Georgia judge and counsel having been forged. Tata and his lawyer acknowledged that the court order they had produced to OIG was "not genuine" and later produced the genuine order, which was substantively different.[18] OIG never determined who created the false document and forged the signatures. Tata and his counsel said they did not create the document.[18]

Upon his retirement in June 2009, Tata received the Distinguished Service Medal.[18]

Public schools administrator[edit | edit source]

After retiring from active duty service, he served as the Chief Operating Officer of the District of Columbia Public Schools from 2009 to 2010. In 2010, he was named Superintendent of the Wake County Public School System.[20] Tata had strained relationships with several members of the Wake County School Board, which shifted to a Democratic majority during Tata's service. Opposition fell along party-lines. Citing concerns over his "leadership style" and his handling of student assignment issues in the large school district, Tata's contract was terminated after less than two years, in 2012.[21][22] The decision to buy out Tata's contract under a no-fault clause was controversial, with two local polls suggesting that a majority of Wake County voters and parents of children in the district opposed the decision to remove Tata.[23][24]

Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Transportation[edit | edit source]

In January 2013, North Carolina governor Pat McCrory appointed Tata as Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Transportation.[13] Tata considered challenging U.S. Representative Walter B. Jones, but dropped the idea after it became public in June 2015.[25] As Secretary he was "a forceful advocate for the governor's highways, ports and railroads improvements campaign" and promoted McCrory's proposals to take out $3 billion in bonds for transportation infrastructure.[25] A compromise with environmentalists over the replacement of the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge was one element of his tenure.[25] Tata abruptly resigned on July 28, 2015.[25]

Political commentator[edit | edit source]

Tata has appeared on commentary panels on Fox News.[26] In his political commentary, Tata was a regular defender of Donald Trump and his administration.[27] In November 2018, he defended Trump's decision to send troops to the U.S.-Mexico border.[26]

Conspiratorial and inflammatory comments[edit | edit source]

In Twitter posts and radio-show appearances in 2017 and 2018, Tata repeatedly made the false claim that President Barack Obama was a "Muslim" and a "terrorist leader"; accused Obama of being "an anti-Semite" who wanted to "destroy Israel" and "did not want" to defeat ISIL; and claimed that the negotiation of the multilateral nuclear agreement with Iran was born by Obama's "Islamic roots."[5][27][28] Tata accused then-President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama of being "borderline treasonous" during Trump's transition to the presidency.[4] In August 2018, he accused former CIA Director John O. Brennan, a critic of Trump, of being a "clear and present danger" to the U.S. and called Brennan a "communist" on Fox & Friends.[29] He repeatedly pushed the notion that a "deep state cabal" was working to undermine Trump;[8] pushed false conspiracy theories that Brennan ordered the assassination of Trump;[4] and, on another occasion, tweeted at Brennan, "Might be a good time to pick your poison: firing squad, public hanging, life sentence as prison b*tch, or just suck on your pistol."[5][28] Tata also referred to Islam as "the most oppressive, violent religion"; accused both Obama and former president Bill Clinton of being guilty of "sedition and/or treason"; accused Obama of being a "Manchurian candidate" who supported "Hamas & Muslim brotherhood"; and suggested that "the left" and Obama "hates America."[5][28] Tata also made various inflammatory Twitter posts attacking Democratic politicians Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters as "violent extremists" and using a racist hashtag to criticize CNN journalist Don Lemon.[27]

Tata deleted several of his Twitter posts after they were publicized by CNN in June 2020, following an investigation by Andrew Kaczynski and others.[27]

Trump administration[edit | edit source]

In spring 2020,[15] Tata joined the Pentagon as a senior advisor to Defense Secretary Mark Esper.[5]

Nomination for Under Secretary of Defense for Policy[edit | edit source]

On April 24, 2020, Trump announced his intent to nominate Tata to be the next Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, replacing John Rood, who resigned from the position in February 2020.[6] On June 11, 2020, Trump formally nominated Tata for the position,[30] which is the third-highest ranking position in the Defense Department.[8]

Upon his nomination, Tata's past conspiratorial and inflammatory comments in Twitter posts, radio interviews, and other statements led to opposition to the appointment.[5][28][31] After the nomination was made, 51 minority, LGBT, disability and employee groups (including the NAACP and American Federation of Teachers) sent an open letter to senators opposing Tata's confirmation, calling him "patently unfit" for the post due to his comments and criticizing Tata's record as superintendent of the Wake County, North Carolina school system.[32] Democrats, included Senate Armed Services Services committee ranking member Jack Reed of Rhode Island,[33] strongly opposed Tata's nomination, citing his past comments.[15][28] A number of Republicans also expressed concerns[15] or ambivalence about the nomination, although the Republican chair of the Senate Armed Services Services, James M. Inhofe, expressed support for Tata,[15] and Trump pressed the committee to move forward with a hearing on his nomination.[15] In June 2020, Tata sent a letter to senators apologizing for his past remarks, saying the comments "while grievous, are not indicative of who I am."[15] Several former generals, including Joseph Votel and Tony Thomas, withdrew their support for Tata after learning of his offensive comments.[5][31] Retired generals Clarence K.K. Chinn and Dana J.H. Pittard supported Tata's confirmation, saying that Tata's past remarks were "ill-considered" but that Tata had a record of supporting "racial, ethnic and religious equality" in his military and civilian service.[8][34]

On July 30, 2020, Tata's confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee was canceled just before it was set to begin, signaling that there might not be a sufficient number of Republicans to confirm Tata's appointment.[15] On the same day, the White House reportedly advised the committee that the nomination was likely to be withdrawn.[8] Tata was then appointed as "the official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy reporting to the Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Dr. James Anderson", a position that does not require confirmation by the Senate.[9] Both the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith, and the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jack Reed, condemned the appointment, with Reed describing it as "an insult to our troops, professionals at the Pentagon, the Senate, and the American people."[35]

With the resignation of James Anderson in November 2020, Tata assumed the responsibilities of the acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy[36] or, "the senior official performing the duties of the under secretary of defense for policy."[37][38]

Novelist[edit | edit source]

Tata's work has been referred to as "Tom Clancy-style military thrillers."[12] His novel Besieged was listed by Publishers Weekly as a Top 10 Thriller/Mystery of 2017.

Tata's published books are:

As of 2008, all of the proceeds from Tata's Threat Series books had been donated to the USO Metro DC Hospital Services fund for Wounded Warriors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center; by 2008, $15,000 had been donated.[39]

Personal life[edit | edit source]

Tata, who is of Italian ancestry, has two children.[13][40] He married Tracy Lynn Burt on July 16, 1983; they were divorced in April 1993.[40] In 2015, Tata married his third wife, Jodi Amanda.[40]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Anthony Jean Tata". https://www.westpointaog.org/page.aspx?pid=3390&reid=w7p4zbzqDK6wyFhGd2QBUg%3d%3d&bbsys=0&bbrt=0. 
  2. Siceloff, Bruce (8 January 2013). "He's not 'The General,' but he's the boss at DOT". http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/01/07/2589460/road-worrier-hes-not-the-general.html. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Fox News regular Anthony Tata to be tapped as Pentagon policy chief" (in en). https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/23/fox-anthony-tata-pentagon-203536. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Top Pentagon nominee pushed conspiracy theories that former CIA director tried to overthrow Trump and even have him assassinated". CNN. June 23, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/23/politics/kfile-tata-conspiracy-theory/index.html. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Gordon Lubold, Generals Pull Support for Pentagon Nominee Tata Over Offensive Tweets, The Wall Street Journal (June 18, 2020).
  6. 6.0 6.1 Lippman, Daniel; Seligman, Lara (April 23, 2020). "Fox News regular Anthony Tata to be tapped as Pentagon policy chief". POLITICO. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/23/fox-anthony-tata-pentagon-203536. 
  7. "One Nomination Sent to the Senate". 11 June 2020. https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/one-nomination-sent-senate-13/. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 Em Steck, White House tells Senate Armed Services they plan to withdraw controversial Pentagon nominee, source says, CNN (July 30, 2020).
  9. 9.0 9.1 Ryan Browne. "Trump directed controversial Pentagon pick into new role with similar duties after nomination failed". https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/02/politics/anthony-tata-nominee-pentagon/index.html. 
  10. https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2020/11/10/trump-loyalists-promoted-to-powerful-pentagon-roles-after-esper-firing.html
  11. "Tata, Martha Jeraldine [obituary"]. 30 Nov 2019. https://dailyprogress.com/greenenews/obituaries/tata-martha-jeraldine/article_43c2413c-257b-5c8d-b106-bb90b74f419d.html. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 Turque, Bill (15 February 2010). "Retire Army Officer's New Mission:D.C. Public Schools". https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/14/AR2010021404039.html. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 "NCDOT Leadership: Secretary of Transportation". http://www.ncdot.gov/about/leadership/secretary.html. 
  14. Jacobs, Jennifer (April 22, 2020). "Trump Chooses Tata, a Retired General, for Top Defense Post". Bloomberg. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-23/trump-chooses-tata-a-retired-general-for-top-defense-post. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 15.5 15.6 15.7 15.8 Dan Lamothe & Seung Min Kim, Senate hearing for controversial Pentagon nominee Anthony Tata canceled just before it was set to begin, Washington Post (July 30, 2020).
  16. Frank, John; T. Keung Hui (4 January 2013). "McCrory completes Cabinet, names Tata in another surprising pick". http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/01/04/3762753/tony-tata-named-nc-transportation.html. 
  17. Tata, Anthony (26 August 1996). "A Flight for Lodgement: Future Joint Contingency Operations". pp. 82–89. https://www.google.com/books/edition/Joint_Force_Quarterly/gg6fcCs8GCsC. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 18.5 18.6 18.7 Siceloff, Bruce (September 19, 2015). "Tony Tata's Army Career Included Phony Court Order, At Least 2 Affairs". News & Observer. https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article35852217.html. 
  19. "Garrity, Jones to Wed Feb. 2" (in en). 22 January 2019. LCCN 87065385. OCLC 15649740. http://www.simpsoncounty.ms/weddings/garrity-jones-wed-feb-2. 
  20. Wheeler, Burgetta Eplin. "Wheeler: The school board from another planet". https://www.newsobserver.com/article17543777.html. 
  21. Scott, Gurnal (26 September 2012). "Tata Out As Wake Schools Superintendent". WUNC. https://www.wunc.org/post/tata-out-wake-schools-superintendent. 
  22. "Tata was heartbroken over Wake Schools firing". WRAL-TV. 8 January 2013. https://www.wral.com/tata-was-heartbroken-over-wake-schools-firing/11955958/. 
  23. Chris Baysden, Poll: School board shouldn’t have fired Tata, Triangle Business Journal (October 3, 2012).
  24. Luebke, Bob. "Poll: Wake Voters support Tata; not school board". https://www.nccivitas.org/civitas-review/poll-wake-voters-support-tata-not-school-board/. 
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 Bruce Siceloff; Craig Jarvis (July 28, 2015). "Tata takes sudden step away from helm of NCDOT". http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article29097877.html. 
  26. 26.0 26.1 Jackson, Drew (November 25, 2018). "Former NC highways chief defends Trump's decision to send troops to US-Mexican border". https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article222168500.html. 
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 Em Steck, Andrew Kaczynski and Nathan McDermott (June 12, 2020). "Top Pentagon policy nominee has a history of Islamophobic and offensive comments". Kfile. CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2020/06/12/politics/pentagon-nominee-tata-trump-kfile/index.html. 
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 28.3 28.4 Andrew Kaczynski, Em Steck & Nathan McDermott, Democrats on key Senate committee oppose top Pentagon pick as more inflammatory tweets emerge, CNN (June 15, 2020).
  29. "Gen. Tata: 'Communist John Brennan' Never Should Have Had a Security Clearance". Fox News. http://insider.foxnews.com/2018/08/16/gen-tata-communist-john-brennan-never-should-have-had-security-clearance-first-place. 
  30. "PN1980 — Anthony J. Tata — Department of Defense: Anthony J. Tata, of Virginia, to be Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, vice John C. Rood, resigned". United States Congress. June 11, 2020. https://www.congress.gov/nomination/116th-congress/1980. 
  31. 31.0 31.1 Zachary Cohen, Barbara Starr & Andrew Kaczynski, Retired generals pull support for Trump nominee after offensive tweets uncovered by CNN, CNN (June 18, 2020).
  32. Connor O'Brien, 51 advocacy groups oppose Trump's pick for Pentagon policy chief due to past comments, Politico (June 25, 2020).
  33. O'Brien, Connor (June 15, 2020). "Top Democrat opposes Pentagon policy nominee who called Obama a 'terrorist leader'". POLITICO. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/06/15/jack-reed-opposes-trump-pentagon-policy-nominee-319816. 
  34. Clarence K.K. Chinn & Dana J.H. Pittard, Confirm Tony Tata, Wall Street Journal (July 27, 2020).
  35. Lamothe, Dan (August 3, 2020). "Retired general is appointed to Trump administration in position that won't require confirmation". https://www.stripes.com/news/us/retired-general-is-appointed-to-trump-administration-in-position-that-won-t-require-confirmation-1.639803. 
  36. Seligman, Lara; Lippman, Daniel (November 10, 2020). "Official who once called Obama a 'terrorist leader' takes over Pentagon policy" (in en). Politico. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/11/10/pentagon-top-policy-official-resigns-435693. 
  37. "DOD Statement on Personnel Changes at the Pentagon" (in en-US). 10 November 2020. https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Releases/Release/Article/2411893/dod-statement-on-personnel-changes-at-the-pentagon/. 
  38. Baker, Peter; Jakes, Lara (11 November 2020). "Fighting Election Results, Trump Employs a New Weapon: The Government" (in en-US). New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/10/us/politics/trump-election-results.html. 
  39. Bedard, Paul (24 December 2008). "The Army's Very Own Tom Clancy". https://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2008/12/24/the-armys-very-own-tom-clancy. 
  40. 40.0 40.1 40.2 "Tony Tata's Army career included phony court order, at least 2 affairs". The News & Observer. 2015. https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article35852217.html. 

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