Pentagon chief opens discussion about extremism in the ranks

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin

"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 hundreds of individuals serving on 42 civilian boards will have to resign by February 16, as their operations are suspended so that the review can begin.

Members of those boards who were appointed by the Pentagon will be asked to resign this month, while those who were selected by Congress or the president will stay on while the review takes place, according to the officials, who spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity to preview a decision that had not been officially announced yet.

The secretary's move boots Trump loyalists who were appointed to the boards at the last minute.

All together there are more than 600 members on the 42 boards.

Accordingly, he said, hundreds of experts would be fired and the committees' activities suspended until June.

"Advisory committees have and will continue to provide an important role in shaping public policy within [the Department of Defense]", Austin said in his memo to the department.

Corey Lewandowski
Corey Lewandowski

In early December, Trump sparked outrage when he appointed two of his former top campaign officials, Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, to the Defense Business Board. "This review will allow him now to quickly get his arms around the goal of these boards and to make sure the advisory committees are in fact providing the best possible advice to department leadership".

"The Secretary was deeply concerned with the pace and the extent of recent changes to memberships of department advisory committees", said John Kirby, the Pentagon's press secretary.

Shortly after the November election, the Trump administration expelled former foreign diplomats Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright from the Defense Policy Board, tasked with helping shape United States defense strategy.

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. Gingrich was appointed to that same board.

That means that the upcoming review and resignations will not impact Sean Spicer, Trump's former White House spokesman, who was named in 2019 to the U.S. Naval Academy's Board of Visitors, nor Kellyanne Conway, who was named to serve on the U.S. Air Force Academy's Board of Visitors. The panel is not subject to Austin's broader review, but he intends to appoint four new members.

"Not only were most of Trump's appointees ill-qualified political cronies, but these boards were stale relics", tweeted Sen. The panel hasn't started its work yet, but will be responsible for figuring out how to go about renaming military bases and property that honor Confederate leaders.

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