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Pentagon Shakes Up Defense Policy Board, Removes Major Advisors

Published: December 1, 2020
The Pentagon has removed 11 advisors from its Defense Policy Board. overhead view of the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C. trump administration
Major shifts have occurred in the U.S. Department of Defense. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

The U.S. Department of Defense has removed 11 influential advisors from its Defense Policy Board. The directive was sent out by Pentagon’s White House liaison Joshua Whitehouse, with the purge done quietly on the eve of Thanksgiving. One U.S. defense official stated that these changes were in consideration for a long time. The ousted officials include:

  • Madeline Albright and Henry Kissinger, both of whom have served as Secretaries of the State
  • Gary Roughead, a retired Admiral who has served as chief of naval operations
  • Jane Harman, who once used to be a ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee
  • Jamie Gorelick, an administration deputy attorney general during the time of Clinton
  • J.D. Crouch II, former Deputy National Security Advisor
  • Franklin Miller, a former top defense official
  • Rudy De Leon, a former chief operating officer at the Pentagon
  • Eric Cantor, former House Majority Leader
  • Robert Joseph, a chief U.S. nuclear negotiator
  • David McCormick, a former undersecretary at the Treasury Department

The Defense Policy Board is overseen by the Pentagon’s Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, the top policy official in the department. The board acts as an in-house think tank. It usually includes former secretaries of state, senior diplomats, members of Congress, top military leaders, foreign policy experts, and so on. Though the Board does not play a tangible role in the policymaking process at Pentagon, it does advise on national security threats facing the U.S.

The Trump administration had been trying to remake the Defense Policy Board with people sympathetic to the cause of the President. However, such a move faced consistent pushback from people like Mark Esper, the former Defense Secretary, and James Anderson, the former acting Undersecretary of Defense for Policy. Esper was ousted from his position in early November and replaced with the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Christopher Miller. Meanwhile, Anderson resigned the following day. 

Afghanistan policy

Esper has long acted in a manner contrary to President Trump’s policies. During the Black Lives Matter riots, Trump had threatened to send military troops to quell the riots and bring some order back to society. However, Esper undermined Trump by publicly opposing the deployment of troops. A former administration official states that under Esper, decisions regarding important matters took a long time to be finalized.

Perhaps, the biggest issue that Esper and Trump were at loggerheads was regarding Afghanistan. Trump wanted to bring the military personnel back to America. However, Esper had strongly resisted the President’s views. “For too long, those around him, undermined his desire to bring troops home and declare victory. Now is the time to do it!” Sergio Gor, a senior Trump campaign aide, said to Breitbart.

Trump is looking to draw down troops in Afghanistan to 2,500 by early 2021. With a new set of people at the Pentagon that support his stance, Trump is currently in a position to do exactly what he had promised – end America’s war in Afghanistan.

By Deepak Rangan

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