WASHINGTON ― The Trump administration continued efforts to replace Pentagon advisers with loyalists as it tapped former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and others Monday to replace ousted members of the Defense Policy Board, an independent outside body.
Weeks after former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright were removed in a sudden purge of longstanding experts, Gingrich and nine others have been named as intended replacements, the Pentagon announced. The administration made similar moves with the Defense Business Board last month.
“These incoming members bring extensive defense and national security affairs experience to this advisory committee from their time in Congress, the State Department, our armed forces and beyond. I’m confident the Department of Defense will benefit greatly from their time and service to the board,” acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller said in a statement Monday to announce the intended appointments.
The board, overseen by the undersecretary of defense for policy, provides top-ranking Pentagon officials with independent, informed advice and opinions on matters of defense policy. Foreign Policy broke news of the changes last month, reporting that Defense Secretary Mark Esper and acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Anderson had resisted the moves before they were sacked.
It’s unclear whether the board members will be seated before President-elect Joe Biden takes office Jan. 20, and it’s likely he would reverse the move or offer his own slate.
Beyond Gingrich, seen as a partisan figure, the administration has selected Scott O’Grady, a Trump-era nominee for a senior Pentagon role who spread debunked conspiracies on Twitter that called President Donald Trump’s election loss to Biden a “coup” attempt and shared tweets that suggest Trump should declare martial law, according to CNN. O’Grady was an F-16 pilot who was shot down during the Bosnian War and eluded capture.
The members named Monday also include Thomas Carter, the former U.S. ambassador to the International Civil Aviation Organization; Edward Luttwak, a military historian and scholar on coup d’etats; Thomas Stewart, a Trump adviser, corporate executive and former naval officer; former Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., who chaired the House Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee; former Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., who served on and helped create the 1991-1993 Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs; and financier and former U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador Charles Glazer.
Last week, the Defense Department announced the appointment of Michael Pillsbury, a China expert at the Hudson Institute, as the board’s new chair, and Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, formerly an administrator at the National Nuclear Security Administration, as a member.
The outgoing board members include retired Adm. Gary Roughead; onetime ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee Jane Harman; and Rudy deLeon, a former chief operating officer at the Pentagon.
Also ousted were former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor; David McCormick, a former Treasury Department undersecretary; a former deputy attorney general, Jamie Gorelick; chief U.S. nuclear negotiator Robert Joseph; former deputy national security adviser JD Crouch II; and former top defense official Franklin Miller.
Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.