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Trump taps Afghanistan war critic Brig. Gen. Tata for Pentagon policy post

President Donald Trump during a roundtable discussion with law enforcement officials on police and community relations in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., on June 8, 2020. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

President Donald Trump has nominated Anthony Tata, a retired Army brigadier general and occasional Fox News commentator, to a top job at the Pentagon as he eyes a reduced troop presence in Afghanistan and escalating tensions from China to Iran.

The White House announced his nomination as undersecretary of Defense for policy on Wednesday. The announcement cited his “extensive uniformed service.”

Tata, a West Point graduate who retired from the Army in 2009 after 28 years on active duty, has publicly advocated for withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan and Syria and replacing them with private contractors — a controversial view in the eyes of many military and policy professionals.

“History supports presidential authorization for the use of private military contractors during transition operations to help the U.S. and its allies achieve strategic aims,” Tata and private security mogul Erik Prince wrote in a 2019 piece published by “Now is the time to begin the transition, secure our vital interests, and husband our precious resources.”

Tata, who was deputy commanding general of U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 2006-2007, would replace John Rood at the Defense Department if confirmed by the Senate. Rood was ousted in February after playing a minor but important role in Trump’s impeachment saga. Rood certified to Congress last May that Ukraine was eligible to receive $250 million in security assistance, aid that was later temporarily blocked by the White House.

Since the president asked him to take the job, Tata divested from his company, Tata Leadership Group, a business leadership development consultancy, and signed an ethics letter identifying the names of his clients in case any of them have business ties with the Pentagon during his tenure, according to a person familiar with the matter.

He was granted a top secret clearance last year as part of his private sector work and it has since been updated to a top secret/sensitive compartmented information clearance, the person said.

Since his retirement from the Army in 2009, Tata has served as the secretary of North Carolina’s Transportation Department, the chief operations officer of the District of Columbia Public Schools and the superintendent of the Wake County public schools system in North Carolina.

He is also the author of several thrillers.


© 2020 Bloomberg News

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