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.
As author, journalist, and China expert Bill Gertz notes, “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.”
While at 97 Kissinger is not as active as before, Gertz points out that “his influence is said to remain strong among Pentagon leaders and others in the Trump administration.” But he is also surrounded by other soft-on-China members.
Former President Bill Clinton’s Deputy Defense Secretary Rudy deLeon, currently an Asia analyst with the liberal Center for American Progress, is also on the board.
Four other members, Adm. Gary Roughead, Mrs. Madeleine Albright, Ms. Jamie Gorelick, and Ms. 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,” notes Gertz.
Albright and Harman are known Democrat partisans. As Clinton’s Secretary of State, Albright even pushed through China’s 2001 entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), based on promises of reforms in Beijing that never materialized. But the WTO entry signaled a major victory in China’s march to global dominance.
Meanwhile, Gorelick was the liberal deputy attorney general under Bill Clinton who created the disastrous bureaucratic “wall” between intelligence and law enforcement agencies that hindered federal authorities from sharing information that could have prevented the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
There are a few conservatives on the board. They include J.D. Crouch, a Pentagon official in the George W. Bush administration; Paula Dobriansky, a former Reagan and Bush administration official; and Robert Joseph, a State Department official under Bush. There are also two moderate Republicans on the board who joined under Trump – former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and former Sen. Jim Talent of Missouri.
One Republican policy board member added under Trump by Secretary James Mattis in 2017 is David McCormick, CEO of Bridgewater Associates, a hedge fund with extensive ties to China. Bridgewater China Investment Management is a unit of the hedge fund based in Shanghai. These close financial ties make him highly suspect to provide independent opinion on China policy.
Unfortunately, even with some China hawk members, the overall composition of the board tilts strongly toward dangerously failed China engagement policies of the past. Retired Navy Capt Jim Fanell, a former U.S. Pacific Fleet intelligence chief, goes further stating that:
While the current membership of the Defense Policy Board is comprised of very well-known names, the board’s current overall membership, save for a few exceptions, fundamentally represents the ‘engagement’ policy’ that is largely responsible for ignoring, even abetting, the People’s Republic of China’s militaristic and aggressive expansion in Asia over the past decade.
It seems clear the membership of the board does not represent the U.S. government’s policy towards the PRC as espoused in the 2017 National Security Strategy and the 2018 National Defense Strategy.
It is time to re-evaluate the Defense Policy Board and ensure that its members’ views align with the new strategic realities of the grave China threat, instead of the failed – even if lucrative to some – dangerous “engagement” policies of the past.