Fates of 12 DOD Advisory Boards Have Yet to Be Announced

As the anniversary approaches of Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III’s unprecedented purge of civilian advisory boards, up to a dozen boards are still in limbo. 

A few of the boards whose fates haven’t been announced include the Defense Innovation Board, the Department of Defense Military Family Readiness Council, and the National Reconnaissance Advisory Board.

Austin announced in a memo Jan. 30, 2021, just eight days after his confirmation as Secretary, that he was concluding the volunteer terms of what the department will only describe as “several hundred” civilian subject-matter experts. 

Pentagon officials have said Austin took into account political reasons—“the scale” and “frenetic” quality of certain last-minute nominations by the Trump administration—in deciding to launch a so-called “zero-based review” of all the boards. Austin also wanted to “get his arms around” the boards’ usefulness.

Unnamed officials told reporters Feb. 2, 2021, that the plan was for staff to make recommendations to Austin by June 1, 2021, on whether to continue, change, or end each board. The staff were to have made a recommendation on the Defense Innovation Board, for example, by March 12, 2021—the earliest deadline among the boards Austin still hasn’t publicly ruled on. 

Austin had cleared 27 boards to restart as of Dec. 6. That was the last time Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby announced a newly approved batch of boards. Pentagon spokesperson Susan Gough said then that no boards had yet been “dissolved.”

In a tradition that dates to the beginning of the federal government, the boards provide expertise from the civilian world. By holding public meetings, they also provide a forum for public input, according to the General Services Administration, which monitors advisory committees such as the DOD boards and others across the federal government. The boards don’t have any decision-making powers.

Austin ended the terms of every member occupying a seat that the Defense Secretary has the power to appoint. The unnamed officials promised reporters they would follow up with a precise number of people affected. However, Gough since confirmed that the department didn’t track the precise number of volunteer subject-matter experts whose terms Austin concluded and would only estimate “several hundred.”

The Office of the Secretary of Defense didn’t immediately confirm that no other boards had restarted since Kirby’s last announcement.

Boards approved to restart include:

  • Advisory Committee on Arlington National Cemetery
  • Advisory Panel on Community Support for Military Families with Special Needs
  • Air University Board of Visitors
  • Board on Coastal Engineering Research
  • Board of Advisors for the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (not listed in Austin’s original memo)
  • *Board of Visitors of the U.S. Air Force Academy
  • Defense Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion (not currently populated)
  • Defense Advisory Committee on Investigation, Prosecution, and Defense of Sexual Assault in the Armed Forces
  • Defense Advisory Committee on Military Personnel Testing 
  • Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services
  • Defense Business Board
  • Defense Health Board
  • Defense Policy Board
  • Defense Science Board 
  • *Department of Defense Board of Actuaries 
  • *Department of Defense Medicare-Eligible Retiree Health Care Board of Actuaries
  • Department of Defense Wage Committee 
  • Inland Waterways Users Board
  • Marine Corps University Board of Visitors 
  • National Defense University Board of Visitors
  • *Reserve Forces Policy Board 
  • Uniform Formulary Beneficiary Advisory Panel 
  • U.S. Air Force Scientific Advisory Board 
  • U.S. Army Science Board
  • *U.S. Military Academy Board of Visitors
  • *U.S. Naval Academy Board of Visitors
  • U.S. Strategic Command Advisory Group

Boards that Austin has not yet approved to restart (and the 2021 deadline for a staff recommendation) include:

  • Armed Forces Retirement Home Advisory Council (April 30)
  • Army Education Advisory Committee (March 26)
  • *Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation Board of Visitors (March 26)
  • *Department of Defense Military Family Readiness Council (April 30)
  • Defense Advisory Committee for the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct (April 30, wasn’t populated at start of review)
  • Defense Innovation Board (March 12)
  • Education for Seapower Advisory Board (April 30)
  • National Reconnaissance Advisory Board (April 30)
  • National Security Agency Emerging Technologies Board (April 30)
  • *National Security Education Board (April 30)
  • *Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program Scientific Advisory Board (April 30)
  • *Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences Board of Regents (April 30)

Boards originally listed in Austin’s memo that aren’t subject to the review (and why):

  • Advisory Committee on Industrial Security and Industrial Base Policy (wasn’t reconstituted because it would already have ended in 2022)
  • National Intelligence University Board of Visitors (realigned under the Officer of the Director of National Intelligence)
  • Ocean Research Advisory Panel (no current members appointed by the Secretary of Defense)
  • Table Rock Lake Oversight Committee (mission concluded)

*Some or all members of the boards preceded by an asterisk remained in their positions because the Secretary of Defense does not have the authority to appoint or remove those members.