Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered a full review.
The resignations are part of a broader review Austin has ordered to look at the viability of the boards and to eliminate potential overlaps.
But the Pentagon’s top spokesman acknowledged that the resignations and the review had been prompted by the last-minute appointments of Trump loyalists to the boards, including Trump’s former campaign manager.
“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. “This review will allow him now to quickly get his arms around the purpose of these boards and to make sure the advisory committees are in fact providing the best possible advice to department leadership.”
The hundreds of individuals serving on 42 civilian boards will have to resign by Feb. 16, as their operations are suspended so that the review can begin.
A senior defense official said that Austin believes that the resignations he ordered were “the most equitable, fair, and uniformly consistent way to do it across the department.”
In the last two months of the Trump administration, acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller dismissed prominent statesmen who had served on the Defense Policy Board including former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Among the people that Miller named to replace Kissinger and Albright on that board was Anthony Tata, the controversial acting under secretary of defense for policy.
Tata’s nomination to that position had been scuttled by his previous Islamophobic comments calling President Barack Obama a terrorist.
Miller had also appointed Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign manager, and David Bossie, a Trump deputy campaign manager, to the Defense Business Board.
The nature of Miller’s appointments had led to immediate speculation as to whether the Biden administration would allow them to proceed.
Last week, the Pentagon confirmed that it had put the appointments for Lewandowski and Bossie had been placed on hold pending a review.
The resignations will apply only to individuals nominated to boards by the Defense Secretary or other Pentagon officials and will not affect people named to boards by a president or Congress.
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 Pentagon organizations that sponsor each board will have until April 30 to submit recommendations for the viability of each board with the National Defense Strategy, a final recommendation by top Pentagon officials will be submitted to Austin on June 1.
Among the more than 40 advisory boards and committees that will suspend their activities during the review are the Advisory Committee on Arlington National Cemetery, the Defense Advisory Committee on Investigation, Prosecution, and Defense of Sexual Assault in the Armed Forces, and the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services.