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

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, Pentagon officials said Tuesday.

The move affects several hundred board members who sit on 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 dismissed are highly partisan figures such as Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign manager, David Bossie, a former Trump deputy campaign manager, former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich and retired Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata. But instead of singling out Trump appointees, the move applies to all board members, including those appointed before the Trump 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 offer guidance to the Pentagon on policy, science, business and numerous other topics and the members are not paid. To make way for new appointees, the Trump White House in some cases removed some longtime board members and replaced them with pro-Trump loyalists.

“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 activity was the most equitable, effective way of addressing the matter, two Defense officials told reporters in an earlier briefing.

Apart from ordering all board members to resign by Feb. 16, Austin temporarily suspended the activity of the boards and ordered an elaborate review of all the Defense Department advisory boards to examine the role, utility and composition of those panels, according to a memo released by the Pentagon.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the decision.

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