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Pentagon clears out advisory boards, citing concerns over last-minute Trump picks

The move affects both Trump loyalists and others named by earlier administrations.
President Joe Biden's nominee for defense secretary, retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Jan. 19.Greg Nash / Pool via AP file

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has dismissed every member of the Pentagon's advisory boards in a sweeping move fueled by concern that the Trump administration had rushed through a series of last-minute appointments, defense officials said Tuesday.

The move affects several hundred members of about 40 advisory boards, including dozens of people who had been named to the posts in the closing days of former President Donald Trump's tenure.

Among those who were dismissed are highly partisan figures such as Corey Lewandowski, Trump's 2016 presidential campaign manager; David Bossie, a former Trump deputy campaign manager; Republican former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; and retired Army Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata. Instead of singling out Trump appointees, the move applies to all board members, including those appointed before Trump's presidency.

"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 said in a memo released Tuesday.

The advisory boards, whose members are not paid, offer guidance to the Defense Department about policy, science, business and numerous other topics. To make way for new pro-Trump loyalists, the Trump White House in some cases removed longtime board members.

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"There is 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 to drive him to this decision," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters.

Austin decided that dismissing all members of the advisory boards and asking for a full review of their activities was the most equitable, effective way to address matter, two defense officials told reporters in an earlier briefing.

Apart from ordering all board members to resign by Feb. 16, Austin suspended the boards' activities and ordered an elaborate review of all Defense Department advisory boards to examine their role, utility and compositions, according to a memo released by the Pentagon.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the decision.