At least temporarily, the halt affects appointees including Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, both of whom served as campaign managers for Donald Trump. They were named to the Defense Business Board in December, as the Trump administration also abruptly dismissed other members with a form letter from what historically had been a nonpartisan panel advising the defense secretary.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is weighing his options, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said.
“The Secretary, as you would expect, is reviewing current policies in place across the Department to determine if any changes are necessary, to include the advisory boards,” Kirby said in a statement. “No final decisions have been made with respect to board membership. But we will make the information available should that change.”
A senior defense official familiar with the halt, first reported by Politico, said Wednesday night that several appointees named by the Trump administration had not yet completed their paperwork to join a board.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the halt affects the processing of all new appointments and renewals and that related financial and security reviews have been put on hiatus.
Neither Lewandowski nor Bossie had been sworn in on the business board yet. But they and others on the boards also serve at the pleasure of the defense secretary, allowing Austin to oust anyone with whom he is not comfortable.
The Trump administration sought to install several loyalists on advisory boards in its closing days.
In one effort in December, eight appointments were announced to the Defense Policy Board, including former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), former Republican congressman J. Randy Forbes of Virginia, and Scott O’Grady, a former fighter pilot who was shot down over Bosnia and in recent months insisted falsely that Trump beat President Biden “in a landslide” in the November election.
In another effort, Miller announced 11 new members of the Defense Business Board, including Bossie and Lewandowski, and removed other members whose terms were not complete. Joshua Whitehouse, the Trump administration’s White House liaison to the Defense Department, notified the other members they were being dismissed, according to two former members of the board.
Miller went on to name Whitehouse this month as one of his four selections to the Confederate renaming commission. The others are Earl Matthews, who also was named to the Defense Business Board; Ann Johnston, then an acting assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs; and Sean McLean, a White House official.
The senior defense official familiar with the process said that Austin has the authority to replace any of them. The other members are likely to include two appointed by congressional Republicans and two by congressional Democrats.
One day before the inauguration, O’Grady and two other officials — retired Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata and former ambassador Charles Glazer — were sworn in on the Defense Policy Board.
Trump sought to appoint Tata as undersecretary of defense for policy this fall, but his nomination was scuttled after lawmakers raised concerns about a history of incendiary remarks that included calling President Barack Obama a “terrorist leader.”
Tata apologized to senators for his comments in a letter as his nomination was pending. Trump later installed him to perform the duties of the undersecretary of defense for policy, effectively skirting the concerns that the Senate raised.