U.S. News

Pentagon purges advisory boards after flurry of Trump end-of-term appointees

FILE PHOTO: Retired General Lloyd Austin testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing to be the next Secretary of Defense in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, U.S. January 19, 2021. Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has stripped several hundred appointees of their posts on Pentagon advisory boards, a number of whom took office at the end of President Donald Trump’s administration, two U.S. officials said on Tuesday.

The appointees include Anthony Tata, a former acting senior defense official who in 2018 called former President Barack Obama a “terrorist leader” and was placed on the Defense Policy Board on Jan. 19, the last full day of the Trump administration.

Austin became defense secretary under Joe Biden, the vice president under Obama who took office as president on Jan. 20.

While board members are not Pentagon employees, their coveted positions carry influence with Defense Department leadership, and members usually maintain valuable security clearances.

The two U.S. Defense Department officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Austin would be asking hundreds of members on the 42 different boards to leave by Feb. 16. The cost of running the boards could be in the millions of dollars, one of the officials said.

“There is no question that the secretary was deeply concerned with the pace and the extent of recent changes to memberships,” the second official said. “It gave him pause to consider the broad scope and purpose of these boards.”

The move does not affect at least two well-known Trump aides: Sean Spicer, a former White House spokesman who was appointed to the Naval Academy Board of Visitors, and Kellyanne Conway, a senior Trump aide who was appointed to the Air Force Academy Board of Visitors.

The second official said the academy positions were outside the scope of Defense Department actions. Board members appointed by Congress also would not be affected, the officials said.

Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; Editing by Howard Goller