Pentagon's top official tests positive for Covid-19 after Lithuanian visit

Retired Brigadier General Anthony Tata left the Pentagon after learning of his diagnosis.
Retired Brigadier General Anthony Tata left the Pentagon after learning of his diagnosis.PHOTO: ANTHONY J. TATA/INSTAGRAM

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - A top Pentagon official, retired Brigadier General Anthony Tata, has tested positive for coronavirus, the second time in recent weeks that the Covid-19 outbreak has impacted the senior ranks of the US military.

Tata, 61, was tested along with other top US defence officials after Lithuanian diplomats on Thursday (Nov 19) informed the Pentagon that Defensc Minister Raimundas Karoblis tested positive for the virus after visiting the building on Nov 13 and Nov 16, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.

On Friday last week, Karoblis met with Acting Defence Secretary Christopher Miller, Tata and the secretaries of the Army and Air Force, Hoffman said. Separately, Karoblis met on Monday with the secretary of the Navy.

The statement only said Tata had become ill. He left the Pentagon after learning of his diagnosis.

"We have and are continuing to conduct further contact tracing of DoD personnel who have had close contact with the Lithuanian delegation or Mr Tata, and are taking appropriate precautions in accordance with CDC guidelines," according to the Thursday statement from Hoffman.

"We will report additional positive cases as appropriate."

Tata is performing the duties of under secretary of defence for policy after President Donald Trump made a flurry of changes last week at the Pentagon, including firing Defence Secretary Mark Esper.

Tata was screened for the virus at the military's Walter Reed hospital just outside of Washington, where Trump was admitted in October after falling ill with Covid-19, according to two people familiar with the matter.

It wasn't immediately clear when Tata last briefed other top officials, but he was in a meeting with some of them, including Miller, Deputy Defence Secretary David Norquist and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley as well as others this week.

But Hoffman said Miller as well as the military service secretaries aren't quarantining since they followed Centres for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines in their meetings with the Lithuanian delegation.

Miller spent Wednesday visiting troops in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and touring the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia, with his new chief of staff, Kash Patel.

Tata wasn't on that trip, but Miller and Patel were sometimes seen unmasked throughout the day.

In October, several members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including Milley, went into quarantine after coming into contact with a senior Coast Guard officer who tested positive for Covid-19.