WASHINGTON — Nine members of the Defense Business Board, an advisory panel of outside experts for the Defense Department, have been replaced, the Pentagon announced Friday. Among the newcomers are loyalists to President Donald Trump,
Some of the incoming DBB members are Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager; David Bossie, a Republican activist best known as leader of the Citizens United group who is organizing the effort to challenge election results; and Cory Mills, an Army veteran and columnist for the far-right Newsmax website, who has claimed the Nov. 3 election results as fraudulent.
The move comes less than a month after the Pentagon was rocked by the firings of Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Anderson and Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Joseph Kernan, as well as key staffers on their teams. The three were replaced with officials largely seen as personally loyal to Trump, raising concerns about unprecedented politicization of the Pentagon during a presidential transition.
The DBB is an advisory board that is supposed to provide nonpartisan information on best business practices to the department. It has been influential in past decisions, including a report recommending the dissolution of the chief management officer role at the department, which eventually led Congress to shut down the office.
It consists of up to 25 members, none of whom is paid for the role; members are renewed annually, meaning whoever takes over the department under President-elect Joe Biden may look to remove the new wave of appointees.
The group’s charter says members must have “a proven track record of sound judgment and business acumen in leading or governing large, complex private sector corporations or organizations” as well as “a wealth of top-level, global business experience in the areas of executive management, corporate governance, audit and finance, human resources, economics, technology, or healthcare.”
Those removed from the board are Michael Bayer, Arnold Punaro, Atul Vashisitha, John O’Connor, David Venlet, Paul Dolan, Scott Dorn, David Walker and David Van Slyke. Speaking to Politico, which first reported the DBB shakeup, Bayer, who was board chair, said the terminations came via a form letter.
“This kind of a move really will weigh heavily on people on the future and their willingness to serve on these outside advisory boards if they’re going to be subjected to political loyalty tests. It’s unprecedented. I’m just saddened,” he told Politico.
The other new members are Henry Dreifus, Robert McMahon, Bill Bruner, Joseph Schmidt, Keary Miller, Alan Weh, Christopher Shank and Earl Matthews.
“I’m proud to welcome each of these new members to the Defense Business Board and I look forward to their contributions to help guide the Department’s business efforts in the coming years,” acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller said in a statement. “These individuals have a proven record of achievement within their respective fields and have demonstrated leadership that will serve our Department, and our nation well.”
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.