Three weeks after I published my piece urging an overhaul of the Pentagon’s soft-on-China ‘Defense Policy Board’ (DPB), President Trump did just that. Quietly, on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday, the Defense Department removed eleven members of its important DPB — including former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright, former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Rudy De Leon, a former Deputy Defense Secretary at the Pentagon.
This is a significant, but underreported development.
As I noted in my earlier ADN piece:
The Pentagon’s top leadership relies on the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, also known as the Defense Policy Board (DPBAC or DPB) for “independent, informed advice and opinion concerning major matters of defense policy.”
Operating through the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (USD-P), the 13-member DPB consisting of prominent outside experts provides advice to the Secretary of Defense and the Deputy Secretary of Defense, focusing on “long-term, enduring issues central to strategic planning.”
Sadly, today most of these experts are “soft on China” and at odds with President Trump’s forceful strategic response to the growing China menace. An overhaul of the Board’s membership is urgently overdue.
China expert Bill Gertz also noted in The Washington Times that “Chief among those on the board with views that clash with Mr. Trump is former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, architect of the conciliatory U.S. policies that argued in favor of unfettered economic and diplomatic engagement with the communist regime.”
Four other members, Adm. Gary Roughead, Madeleine Albright, Jamie Gorelick, and Jane Harman were all added to the policy board in 2011 by President Obama “as part of an effort to slant it in a Democratic direction,” noted Gertz.
Foreign Policy reported that members of the Trump administration had tried to remake the board with members from outside the D.C. establishment, and more sympathetic to the president and his views, but had received pushback from then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper and acting Undersecretary for Policy James Anderson.
I have known Dr. Anderson for decades since serving as Marine Corps officers together in the 1980s. He is a solid conservative with a solid intellect.
Both Esper and Anderson, who were removed earlier this month by Trump, reportedly argued to keep the board in place to allow for policy continuity, according to Foreign Policy. Sadly, without knowing more from Esper or Anderson, it appears that some of the ‘continuity’ these members were promoting was a failed soft-on-China policy.
It is not yet known who will be replacing these removed members. However, a U.S. Defense official told Fox News: “I am grateful to the departing board members, many of whom have served for decades. As we adapt the Department for great power competition, I look forward to naming new board members in the coming days.”
We can expect the replacements before January 20, 2021. Hopefully, they will all have valuable, credible expertise and experience to add value to the DPB. But they should also reflect and represent the critical new need for a tough-on China containment strategy.