Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has reached into the senior ranks of the U.S. Army for a veteran of the war in Afghanistan to fill her newly created chief operating officer's position. Former Brigadier Gen. Anthony J. Tata, who retired May 31 after 28 years in uniform, will be paid $170,000 a year to focus initially on procurement matters and then expand to other key aspects of the system, according to Rhee spokeswoman Jennifer Calloway.
Tata, 49, who started work June 1, previously served as deputy director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Organization, the agency responsible for coordinating military and industrial efforts to blunt the threat posed by IEDs. He was also deputy commanding general of the 10th Mountain Division and Combined Joint Task Force-76, where he led operations and logistics for nearly 20,000 troops.
He somehow found time to write a couple of novels. According to an Amazon plot summary, "Sudden Threat" chronicles the exploits of CIA paramilitary operative Matt Garrett, mysteriously pulled from Pakistan as he closes in on Al Qaeda leaders. Reassigned to the Phillipines, he unexpectedly finds a dead U.S. Special Forces paratrooper in a downed C-130 and "is thrown into a contest of wits and resiliency in the uncharted rainforests of Mindanao." Tata donates royalties from the book, published last November, to the USO Metro DC Hospital Services Fund for Wounded Warriors.
He is currently enrolled in the Broad Superintendents Academy, started by Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad to train leaders with executive experience and place them and urban school districts.
The new job was created as part of a reshuffling that saw the departures of Chief of Schools Tracy Martin and Chief of Teaching and Learning Sherry Ulery. A source with knowledge of Tata's selection said Terence Golden, chairman of the Federal City Council, the influential group of downtown business executives active in education matters, helped recruit Tata to strengthen a senior management team dominated by young, energetic but relatively inexperienced administrators.
DCPS has called in the Army before, and it didn't end all that well. In 1996 the D.C. financial control board, eager to give the school system a clean break from its troubled past, fired Superintendent Franklin L. Smith and replaced him with a tough-talking war hero, retired Army Lt. Gen. Julius W. Becton Jr. As recounted in a 2007 story by The Post's April Witt, Becton said he was encouraged by board members not to debrief Smith. But he finally decided to arrange a quiet meeting with his predecessor. The advice Smith offered was ominous.
"I know you are accustomed to giving orders, turning around and saying, 'Forward march!' " Smith recalled telling Becton. "My only advice is that in this job, you turn around and look to see who is following you. Because every time you think people are following you, they are not. And that includes the inside staff."
Becton quit in frustration 17 months later.
June 8, 2009; 5:14 PM ET
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