Trump’s New Tough-on-China Defense Policy Board – Diplomats, Strategists, ‘Loyalists’


In November as I had urged in October the Pentagon announced the dismissal of most of its outside advisory group, the Defense Policy Board (DPB). Trump mostly removed several soft-on-China members and partisan Democrats placed there by Presidents Clinton and Obama. Many had served for decades.

Trump has now replaced those members with a group of distinguished diplomats, strategists, and political figures, as well as so-called ‘loyalists.’

Those removed by Trump included former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright, former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Rudy De Leon, a former Deputy Defense Secretary under Clinton at the Pentagon. All were seen as weak on China.

As I wrote in November regarding Trump’s planned replacements: “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.”

Trump appears to have succeeded in doing just that for the most part.

Yesterday, Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller announced that he was appointing former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, Ambassador Thomas Carter, Dr. Edward Luttwak, Mr. Scott O’Grady, Mr. Thomas Stewart, the Honorable Randy Forbes, Senator Robert Smith, and Ambassador Charles Glazer to the Defense Policy Board.

The Pentagon statement quoted Miller as saying:

These incoming members bring extensive defense and national security affairs experience to this advisory committee from their time in Congress, the State Department, our armed forces and beyond. I’m confident the Department of Defense will benefit greatly from their time and service to the board.

This followed the announcement last week that the Pentagon also intended to make China policy expert, Michael Pillsbury, the Chair of the DPB, and former National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Administrator and respected scientist, Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, a member.

Pillsbury is a superb choice for Chair of the DPB, having served in China and written extensively on the rise of the China threat. His book, “The Hundred-Year Marathon,” is required reading for all who want to understand China’s century-long goal to become the world’s hegemon by 2049.

Most of the others, such as Gingrich, Luttwak, Smith, and Glazer have solid expertise and credentials as intellectuals, established political figures, diplomats, and strategists. Some, like Gingrich, have also been strong supporters of the president. They should add considerable weight and value to the DPB, and its role in advising the Pentagon of the most serious threats to America.

One of the few that provokes doubts is Scott O’Grady.

A former Air Force fighter pilot shot down over Bosnia in 1995, and later rescued by U.S. Marines, he enthusiastically co-chaired the Veterans for Trump campaign effort in 2020. While much of the criticism of him by the establishment media involves his supposed pushing of conspiracy theories, my issue is more basic.

O’Grady simply appears to lack the extensive experience, gravitas, or intellectual heft to add great value to the Board. But, then again, sometimes you need an outlier to give perspective.

Other than that, Trump appears to have significantly achieved the much-needed overhaul of the DPB that I wrote about in October. Trump has created a new Defense Policy Board primarily geared to face the China threat in the 21st century.


Paul Crespo

Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank.

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