New Leaders Named to Advisory Panel on Women’s Service

The Office of the Secretary of Defense has named the first new “leadership cadre” of an influential women’s advisory committee after disbanding the board along with dozens of others in January 2021 then restarting them incrementally.

The Pentagon announced March 22 that Shelly O’Neill Stoneman, described as a government affairs professional, will chair the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, or DACOWITS, and also named four retired military leaders who will chair the board’s subcommittees. Stoneman succeeds retired Air Force Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger, the Air Force’s first four-star general. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III concluded Wolfenbarger’s term and hundreds of others.

The OSD said Stoneman is a “seasoned organizational leader” with “two decades of executive branch and congressional experience on defense and foreign policy matters” and that she is the spouse of a former Army infantry officer.

To be appointed to the chair of “the premier entity providing the Secretary of Defense advice and recommendations” about women’s service is “an incredible honor,” Stoneman said in the statement. 

Within days of Austin’s confirmation as Defense Secretary and after last-minute appointments by the Trump administration to various DOD civilian advisory boards, Austin ended the terms of hundreds of volunteer members—all those in positions the Secretary has the power to appoint. At the same time, he ceased all the boards’ operations for a “zero-based review” to “get his arms around” each one’s utility.

Thirty-six of the boards had been cleared to restart operations as of Feb. 9, when the DOD announced that Austin had named former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg as chair of the Defense Innovation Board.

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.

Since Austin deemed in August 2021 that DACOWITS could restart, the department “explored a larger pool of the nation’s talented, innovative, private and public sector leaders, whose service will provide a more diverse and inclusive membership that promotes variety in background, experience, and thought in support of the committee’s mission,” according to the statement. The “civilian men and women” of the committee advise on women’s “recruitment, retention, employment, integration, well-being, and treatment.”

Other members of the DACOWITS leadership team announced March 22 all served as board members under Wolfenbarger, including:

  • Vice chair: Retired Navy Vice Adm. Robin R. Braun
  • Recruitment and Retention Subcommittee chair: Retired Army Lt. Gen. Kevin W. Mangum
  • Employment and Integration Subcommittee chair: Retired Navy Command Master Chief Octavia D. Harris
  • Well-Being and Treatment Subcommittee chair: Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Jarisse J. Sanborn

As of the last announcement of boards cleared to restart operations in February, none had been recommended to cease. Four had not been ruled on:

  • Armed Forces Retirement Home Advisory Council
  • *Department of Defense Military Family Readiness Council
  • Defense Advisory Committee for the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct (wasn’t populated at the start of the review)
  • National Reconnaissance Advisory Board

Boards approved to restart include:

  • Advisory Committee on Arlington National Cemetery
  • Advisory Panel on Community Support for Military Families with Special Needs
  • Army Education Advisory Committee
  • 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 Regents of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
  • Board of Visitors for the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation
  • *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 Business Board
  • Defense Health Board
  • Defense Innovation 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
  • Education for Seapower Advisory Board 
  • Inland Waterways Users Board
  • Marine Corps University Board of Visitors 
  • National Defense University Board of Visitors
  • National Security Agency Emerging Technologies Panel; the Advisory Board for the National Reconnaissance Office
  • National Security Education Board
  • *Reserve Forces Policy Board
  • Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program Scientific Advisory 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

The OSD did not immediately respond to a query about the status of the remaining boards.

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