'Zero-Based' Reviews of DOD Advisory Committee Nearly Complete, Decisions Come Soon

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (July 23, 2021) -- In January, 40 defense-related advisory committees were told to suspend their activities pending the results of "zero-based" reviews that would evaluate their missions.

With those reviews now complete, the secretary of defense is reviewing the findings and making decisions on the futures of each of those committees. The department is close to finishing that process, and it's expected that soon the department will be able to make public the results of those reviews and the related decisions.

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"Largely, the committee-level work has been completed," said Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby during a meeting with the press on Thursday. "We are examining those committee recommendations -- the secretary is -- to determine how he wants to move forward."

Across the department, a variety of advisory boards, councils, panels and committees provide insight and guidance on things such as security cooperation, diversity, science, engineering and medical topics.

In a memorandum published in January, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III provided the names of 42 such groups. Of those, 40 were directed to suspend their activities pending a review of their function. Two groups were not subject to the review either because their mission had already been completed, or because there were no members within the group that were appointed by the secretary of defense.

The secretary directed each group's DOD sponsor to conduct the zero-based review.

"Each DOD sponsor will conduct an in-depth business case of every sponsored advisory committee, supported by fact-based evidence for continued utilization of the advisory committee," the secretary wrote in the memorandum.

Those business cases, he said, were to consider, among other things, the committee's mission and function as it relates to DOD strategic priorities and National Defense Strategy; potential functional realignments to create a single cross-functional advisory committee, and potential legislative changes to non-discretionary advisory committees to properly align them with the department's strategic priorities.

In addition to directing those groups to suspend their activities, the groups whose members were appointed by the secretary of defense, those members were asked to conclude their service and thanked for the work they had done.

While no final decisions have been made yet, Kirby said he expects information to come out of the department soon about the future of the affected committees.

"I do think you'll start to see us be able to communicate in more detail very soon about what boards are going to be reconstituted and how they're going to be both chaired and populated," he said, adding that he expects groups such as the Defense Policy Board, Defense Science Board, and Defense Business Board are likely to be reconstituted.

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