Biden’s defense secretary wipes slate clean, dismissing hundreds from Pentagon advisory boards

In the last months of Donald Trump's maladministration, Trump's teams shifted from their prior obsession of rooting out supposed "disloyal" government workers and devoted themselves to burrowing conservatism's most tawdry cronies into whatever parts of government they could not easily be dislodged from.

Devin Nunes ally-turned0Trump co-conspirator Michael Ellis was to be installed as top National Security Agency attorney—presumably as reward for his role in hiding evidence during Trump's previous impeachment scandal, and previous to that his efforts, with Nunes, to discredit federal investigations into the Trump campaign's 2016 ties to Russian election hacks. Ellis was immediately put on administrative leave by President Joe Biden while the new administration probes the bizarre circumstances of his installation, including a last-minute order by then-acting defense secretary Christopher Miller ordering officials to immediately seat him in the very last days before Trump's departure.

Trump allies were especially brazen in installing hyperpartisan loyalists into government-run media, with a Steve Bannon ally and like-minded extremists running roughshod over rules intended to bar political interference with Voice of America and other outlets, then rescinding the rules outright. Biden immediately demanded the resignation of head crony Michael Pack.

It’s Trump's installation of loyalists to Defense Department advisory boards, again with the help of the inexplicably aggressive Miller, that may have been the most craven of all. Among those tapped to advise the Pentagon, a position that of necessity may at points involve discussions of classified material, were fringe Trump campaign figures Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie. The notion of giving either of them access to national security secrets, much less the notion that both of them together had two beans’ worth of expertise on how the Pentagon should conduct its affairs, is hard to defend.

On Monday, newly installed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made the executive decision that he was not going to waste the time or capital required to extract those and others of Trump's numerous last-minute burrowers from their new positions of would-be power. Instead, reports The Wall Street Journal, he swiftly announced the dismissal of all members of multiple Pentagon advisory boards, removing hundreds of members in a clean sweep. Austin simultaneously ordered a review of dozens of boards in coming months to determine which "provides appropriate value," suggesting that some boards may not be coming back.

The Journal quotes a defense official to report that Austin believed "this was the most fair, most equitable way" to resolve matters after the last administration’s acts. It's also by far the speediest, allowing Pentagon officials to vet would-be new board members without having to forcibly extract Trump's worst and most cynically unqualified hires from existing boards.

This is a needed move. There's no way around it. In the weeks leading up to a violent insurrection by Trump supporters, then-acting defense secretary Miller in particular made numerous inexplicable decisions to Trump's benefit, from committing himself to Trump's burrowing of clearly unqualified allies into national security positions to his specific orders barring the National Guard from responding to a violent attack on the Capitol. His refusal to quickly provide assistance even as lawmakers had to flee an assassination-minded mob was so unfathomably incompetent as to border on tacit support for the coup.

Each of the Trump administration's defense and national security actions in the last weeks of their tenure must be examined, investigated, and likely undone. This is now not a mere issue of partisanship, but a national security threat.