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Reimagining Defense Advisory Boards: Lessons Learned for Leaders in the U.S. Department of Defense

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[Technical Report, Research Report]

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On January 30, 2021, five days after being sworn in, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin suspended all U.S. Department of Defense DoD external advisory boards and committees pending a zero-based review of all such boards, regardless of whether they were subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act FACA, which governs the behavior of many federal boards.1 The FACA database, maintained by the U.S. General Services Administration GSA, listed more than 40 active defense advisory boards at the time of the Secretarys decision.2 These boards of outside advisors were intended to provide insights to DoD. Scientists, policy advisers, and leaders from the business and academic communities, among others, made up these boards, which contributed to major DoD decision making. This has been their function since the first DoD advisory boardthe Defense Science Boardwas founded in 1956.3 However, some had argued that the boards had become ineffective.4 Furthermore, critics argued that the boards too often turned into small bureaucracies or landing pads for political allies seeking to boost their rsums.5 DoD faces many challenges, including great-power competition, developing and sustaining alliances, sustaining and modernizing equipment, and creating a positive work environment for its military and civilian personnel.6 External ideas and advice from leaders of successful enterprises could be especially valuable as DoD addresses these issues. We embarked on this exploratory study to examine how DoD can reap increased benefits from boards of external advisers. We aimed to draw on ideas and lessons learned from previousboards and looked at various DoD discretionary boards of external advisers.7 We began by searching for existing literaturesuch as previous studies, scholarly articles, and reportson this topic, but we found a dearth of literature about the use of advisory boards across DoD or within the military services.


Subject Categories:

  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Administration and Management

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[A, Approved For Public Release]