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General Lloyd Austin testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his conformation hearing to be the next Secretary of Defense on January 19 in Washington.
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 membership of the boards Tuesday.
The announcement comes after the Trump administration appointed several loyalists to advisory boards in the final months of his administration, including former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie who served as Trump’s deputy campaign manager.
The Pentagon took no pains to hide the fact Austin took the action because of concerns the Trump administration had openly packing some boards with loyalists.
“The secretary was deeply concerned with the pace and the extent of recent changes to advisory committees and this review will allow him to get his arms around the purpose of those boards and to ensure that these boards are providing the best advice to department policies,” 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 Department of Defense to a congressionally mandated commission on stripping the names of confederate generals from military bases will be removed but others on that panel to be 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 potentially 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.
More background: In December, CNN reported that former President Trump purged a Pentagon business advisory board and replaced its members with his former campaign manager and deputy campaign manager, neither of whom have served in the military or have any apparent experience with the defense industry.
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 those panels where the White House names members.