Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s decision to call at least a temporary halt to the activities of 42 defense-related advisory boards includes some of the better-known advisory bodies that have advised DoD leadership in recent years, including the Defense Innovation Board and the Defense Policy Board.

The DoD chief put the 42 advisory panels on ice – at least temporarily – via a Jan. 31 memo that directs a “zero-based” review of panel activities, the immediate suspension of all advisory panel activities until DoD completes its review and the “conclusion” of service of all advisory committee and subcommittee members. Panel members are often drawn from industry and academia and serve without compensation.

The house-cleaning removes panel members installed during the Trump administration, but don’t expect the advisory groups to disappear.

“Advisory committees have and will continue to provide an important role in shaping public policy within DoD,” Austin said. He added it’s his responsibility to “ensure each advisory committee provides appropriate value today and in the future, as times and requirements change.”

Austin said the review will, “by definition and intent, focus our advisory committee efforts to align with our most pressing strategic priorities and the National Defense Strategy.”

Among the 42 advisory panels subject to the freeze are:

  • The Defense Innovation Board, which was set up in 2016 to bring Silicon Valley tech innovation and best practices on technology, workforce, and organization to the U.S. military. The board was headed until September 2020 by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and issued findings on numerous subjects including AI ethics guidelines and software acquisition.
  • The Advisory Committee on Industrial Security and Industrial Base Policy, whose advisory portfolio includes information security and cyber defense policies for unclassified information and networking systems of defense contractors, physical security at DoD installations, and the national industrial security program for cleared facilities.
  • The Defense Policy Board, which provides advice to DoD leadership on major matters of defense policy including issues central to strategic planning.
  • The Defense Business Board, which was established in 2001 to provide “best business practices” to DoD aimed at creating a more streamlined organization.
  • The Defense Science Board, which advises DoD on scientific, technical, manufacturing, research, engineering, and acquisition processes.
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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.