Biden Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Ousts All Members From Pentagon Boards

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Monday cleaned house at Pentagon advisory boards with sweeping dismissals of former President Donald Trump's appointments and those of any other previous administration.

The Biden administration move to remove every single member of the Pentagon's policy advisory boards allowed Austin to avoid selectively firing late Trump administration appointments. Pending nominees, like Corey Lewandowski, the former head of Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and one of his most outspoken cable news advocates, were also blocked from being seated. Numerous Democrats touted this move, saying President Joe Biden is finally "draining the swamp."

Such advisory boards are used to influence the actions of the defense secretary, particularly in how it will affect U.S. business and foreign policy. Partisan conservative activists and ardent Trump supporters including David Bossie and Lewandowski were removed alongside several former Democratic counterparts. Austin fired all members who were currently serving on the Department of Defense's boards effective February 16.

The sweeping removal of all members of these boards also meant Austin didn't have to separately review each of the dozen Trump supporters whom acting defense secretary Chris Miller named in the final weeks of the previous administration. Some Democratic members of Congress and progressive strategists praised the dismissal of the vocal Trump supporters alongside people like Kissinger, who has for decades been labeled a "war monger" by critics. In 2009, Kissinger advised then-President Barack Obama and then-Vice President Biden to commit more troops to Afghanistan.

Austin issued a memo last Saturday which said the Pentagon is now completing a "zero-based review" of at least 42 defense advisory committees, Politico's Dave Brown reported Tuesday.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the new defense chief plans to fill all these vacated posts in the coming weeks. Due to access to classified information and military intelligence, the security clearance process can require weeks or months to confirm new members. The Pentagon policy boards were first created during the 1950s, and were intended to bring a diverse range of opinions inside the tight-knit Pentagon.

This broad move was predicted last week by many Washington insiders who noted Austin's suspension of the onboarding process for Trump administration nominees to Pentagon advisory roles. Security clearance investigations can cost taxpayers up to $30,000 per individual appointee.

Newsweek reached out to the Pentagon for any additional remarks about the advisory board dismissals Tuesday afternoon.

Others removed from the boards by Austin this week include former Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and former Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman of California.

The Biden administration is inheriting two ongoing foreign wars that were started during George W. Bush's administration.

Correction (2/2/2021, 7:40 p.m.): This article and headline originally said that Lloyd Austin removed Henry Kissinger and Madeline Albright from the defense boards; Kissinger and Albright were removed by Austin's predecessor, then acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller. The article also said that Corey Lewandowski was removed from the boards; he had not yet been seated. Newsweek regrets the error.

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U.S. Army (retired) General Lloyd Austin (L) speaks after being formally nominated to be Secretary of the Department of Defense by U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on December 9, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. The only African-American to have headed U.S. Central Command, Lloyd Austin, 67, is a four-star general who was in charge of American forces in Iraq from 2010 to late 2011. CHIP SOMODEVILLA / Staff/Getty Images