WASHINGTON — William McRaven, the retired four-star admiral who led U.S. Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014, has resigned from the Pentagon’s technology advisory board following a public critique of President Donald Trump, Defense News has learned.
McRaven resigned from the Defense Innovation Board, a group of technology leaders and innovators tasked with advising the secretary of defense on pertinent issues, on Aug. 20, four days after he posted a scathing op-ed in the Washington Post calling out Trump for revoking the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan.
“Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation,” McRaven wrote to Trump in the Post. “If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken. The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be.”
McRaven’s photo has been removed from the DIB website, and Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza, a Pentagon spokeswoman, confirmed that McRaven resigned from his post on the DIB. She added that “The Department appreciates his service and contribution on the board."
Created by then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in 2016, the DIB is made up primarily of tech thinkers from outside the military. While big names such as former Alphabet head Eric Schmidt and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson helped gain it attention, the board benefited early by the presence of McRaven, who remained well-respected within the department.
McRaven becomes the third of the original announced members of the board to drop off. Amazon head Jeff Bezos, a frequent target from Trump, was announced as part of the DIB when it launched. However, the Post reported earlier this year that Bezos never actually took a seat on the board. And Cass Sunstein, a top adviser to President Barack Obama who had attended several meetings of the board early on, is also no long listed as part of the group on its website.
There had been speculation that more members might quit following the November 2016 elections that brought Trump into office, as there were a number of members who publicly criticized the then-candidate. On the whole, political donations from board members skewed heavily liberal, with members donating almost $2.4 million to democratic candidates and political action committees (PACs), compared to just over $236,000 to GOP causes, according to disclosed campaign finance figures going back to 1998.
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.