The move has been criticized as a political one, seeing as previous presidents have not demanded the resignation of those military academy board members from prior administrations.
“He terminated us because we were appointed by President Trump,” Keane, a retired four-star general and chairman of the Institute for the Study of War who served on the West Point advisory board, told Fox News of Biden’s requests. “There was no assessment of who we are and what our contributions have been and what our background is. … I think it’s petty, very partisan and simply wrong.”
The former Army chief of staff was appointed to the West Point board in 2019 by former President Trump. He described the task as being on a university trustee board and “overseeing the functions of the academy and reporting back to the president as such.”
U.S. President Donald Trump presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to retired General Jack Keane, chairman of AM General Holdings LLC, right, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 10, 2020. Photographer: AL Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Keane and other Trump appointees joined appointees of former President Obama, and each of them brought different skills and insight to the table, Keane explained.
“We never thought of ourselves as political appointees, to be frank about it,” he said. “We’re being honored to be on the Board of Visitors to help one of the most esteemed and beloved institutions in America whose history is almost synonymous with the history of the United States.”
He continued: “So to be removed simply because we were Trump appointees by the Biden administration violates the tradition of the Board of Visitors. President Trump did not eliminate any of the Obama appointees when he came into office. He just let them serve their term out and then appointed people to replace them whom he wanted on on the board, but he didn’t terminate them anybody else.”
Keane added that many of Trump’s appointees had “diverse backgrounds that could assist the military academy” and noted that he supervised West Point when he was a four-star general in the Pentagon for four-and-a-half years despite not being a graduate of the prestigious academy.
Acting U.S. Chief of Staff of the Army General John M. Keane speaks at the Army’s birthday celebration at the Pentagon center courtyard June 13, 2003 in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo by Stefan Zaklin/Getty Images)
“After 38 years in the military, I think I have some understanding of what is needed in terms of the officers that are coming out of West Point and the kind of curriculum they should be exposed to and the kind of standards and values and character development they should experience,” he said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday said the moves were made “to ensure [the president] has nominees and people serving on these boards who are qualified to serve on them and who are aligned with [his] values.”
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Psaki also denied that the moves were politically motivated, saying instead that “the president’s qualification requirements are not your party registration, they are whether you’re qualified to serve and whether you’re aligned with the values of this administration.”
Other officials dismissed from West Point include former Trump national security adviser H.R. McMaster, former Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, former Pentagon senior adviser Douglas Macgregor, former U.S. Army North commander Guy Swan III and West Point grad David Urban.
Fox News’ Michael Lee contributed to this report.