Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Feb. 1 announced the ouster of hundreds of members of the Pentagon’s advisory boards, in a sweeping move that affects a series of last-minute appointees by the Trump administration, according to a Department of Defense (DOD) memo.
Austin wrote in a memo (pdf) on Jan. 30 that all members of 31 Pentagon advisory boards would be fired, effective Feb. 16. Additionally, a total of 40 advisory boards listed in the memo are to be subjected to a “zero-based review,” which will involve an “in-depth business case of every sponsored advisory committee, supported by fact-based evidence for [its] continued utilization,” a process that could lead to their future dissolution and dismissal of members.
“As an interim step, I am directing the immediate suspension of all advisory committee operations until the review is completed unless otherwise directed by myself or the Deputy Secretary of Defense,” Austin wrote, with the memo indicating various deadlines for the completion of the “zero-based review,” ranging from Feb. 26 to April 30.
Austin said in the memo that the move doesn’t affect advisory board members appointed by Congress or the president, only those appointed by the defense secretary, or one of the civilian or military leaders of the armed services. It also doesn’t affect advisory boards that are subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
“Advisory boards have and will continue to provide an important role in shaping public policy within [the Department of Defense],” Austin wrote in the memo. “That said, our stewardship responsibilities require that we continually assess to ensure each advisory committee provides appropriate value today.”
The move affects dozens of people who had been named to advisory board posts in the final days of former President Donald Trump’s administration. Among those who are impacted by the move are Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign manager, and David Bossie, a former Trump deputy campaign manager, both of whom had been appointed to the Defense Business Board.
Not affected are at least two well-known Trump aides: Kellyanne Conway, a senior Trump aide who was appointed to the Air Force Academy Board of Visitors, and Sean Spicer, a former White House spokesman who was appointed to the Naval Academy Board of Visitors.
The advisory boards, some of which date to at least the 1950s, were intended to be bipartisan and offer a diversity of opinion to Pentagon leaders on potential policies.
While advisory board members aren’t Pentagon employees, their coveted positions carry influence with DOD leadership, and members usually maintain valuable security clearances.