Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has dismissed hundreds of members of 42 Pentagon advisory boards, including controversial late appointments by the Trump administration, as the Pentagon announced a review of the boards’ memberships Tuesday.
The announcement comes after the previous administration appointed several loyalists to advisory boards in the final months of former President Donald Trump’s term including former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, who served as his deputy campaign manager.
The Pentagon took no pains to hide the fact Austin took the action because of concerns the Trump administration had openly packed some boards with loyalists.
“The Secretary was deeply concerned with the pace and the extent of recent changes to memberships of department advisory committees and this review will allow him now to quickly get his arms around the purpose of these boards and to make sure the advisory committees are in fact providing the best possible advice to department leadership,” chief Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said.
The Wall Street Journal was first to report Austin’s decision.
Current members being told to step down are only those appointed by the Pentagon and not those appointed by the White House or Congress. For example four people appointed by the Pentagon to a congressionally mandated commission on stripping the names of Confederate generals from military bases will be removed but others on that panel appointed by Congress will remain.
A review of all the boards, and whether they are still needed, will now be the focus before new members are named.
“There’s no question that the frenetic activity that occurred to the composition of so many boards in just the period of November to January deeply concerned the secretary and certainly helped drive him to this decision,” Kirby added.
“Our stewardship responsibilities require that we continually assess to ensure each advisory committee provides appropriate value today and in the future, as times and requirements change,” Austin said in a memo to the department.
The 42 advisory boards cost taxpayers millions of dollars each year and some of their work is believed to be potentially redundant, which added to the need for the review.
The action effectively removes, for now, several hundred people serving on boards who advise on everything from defense policy, science, innovation, health issues, coastal engineering, sexual misconduct and diversity and inclusion.
In December CNN reported that Trump purged a Pentagon business advisory board and replaced its members with Bossie and Lewandowski, neither of whom have served in the military or have any apparent experience with the defense industry.
Members who were suddenly removed from the Defense Policy Board, an outside advisory group that provides the defense secretary with advice on defense policy, included former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Henry Kissinger, former ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee Jane Harman and former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor,
One Trump loyalist expected to keep her advisory role is Kellyanne Conway, who Trump named to the Air Force Academy of Visitors. Seats on that board are controlled by the President so the Austin memo does not cover the panels where the White House names members.