Hundreds of retired US senior military officials have taken up top jobs with armed services of foreign countries, in particular "despotic regime" in the Persian Gulf region, a US report unveils.
A new investigative report by the Washington Post found that more than 500 retired US military personnel, including former generals and admiral, have accepted jobs with suppressive foreign governments – such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) -- since 2015.
Details of those lucrative contracts are among records disclosed by the Pentagon for the first time in response to the daily’s findings and demands from some US lawmakers, who scheduled a hearing on the issue on Wednesday.
In the hearing, four of the Pentagon’s top lawyers were questioned by members of Congress over concerns about how often the Pentagon is allowing former employees to work for foreign governments, and whether that endangers US national security.
In the list obtained by the legislators, 77 senior officials (Generals and Admirals) have done paid work for foreign governments since 2012.
“A former Navy SEAL earned $258,000 a year as a special operations adviser for Saudi Arabia. A [former] Air Force colonel received $300,000 a year to work for a Russian-owned satellite company,” said Democratic Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren.
“They are purchasing favors, influence and a good name for themselves in Washington, whether that’s in America’s national security interests or not,” Warren added.
Australia's government, for example, offered former senior US Navy officials more than $10 million for consulting deals. In Azerbaijan, one retired US Air Force general was offered a consulting job with a pay of $5,000 a day.
Among the 47 different nations listed in the report, more than half of the approvals were for work with the UAE.
Last year in a classified intelligence report, first revealed in The Washington Post, it was let out that while US military officials were working for the UAE, its government was masterminding a number of schemes to illegally meddle in American politics and elections and bend US foreign policy based on the regime’s interests.
The documents also revealed that 15 former generals and admirals have worked directly with Saudi Arabia's defense ministry, headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who launched the war on neighboring Yemen.
Saudi Arabia’s paid advisers have included retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones, a national security adviser to President Barack Obama, and retired Army Gen. Keith Alexander, who led the National Security Agency under Obama and President George W. Bush, according to documents obtained by The Post under Freedom of Information Act lawsuits.
Alexander secured $2 million in consulting deals with foreign governments after leaving office, including a $700,000 contract to advise Saudi Arabia on cyber security after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, newly released records show.
“There seems to be a high demand for retired senior military officers to work for foreign governments,” noted Eli Clifton, investigative journalist questioning “What are these former officers bringing to the table in exchange for six-figure paydays? Is it just their experience? Or is it their connections, influence and stature back in Washington?”
An investigation by the Pentagon found that Gen. Michael Flynn, who briefly served as national security adviser to the highly controversial US president Donald Trump, received about $450,000 from Russian and Turkish sources in 2015, a year after he retired from the Army, according to the daily.
Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 for lying to the FBI about his ties to a Russian ambassador. Trump pardoned Flynn in November 2020.
US military officials barred from serving foreign govts without approval
Under US federal law, retired US military personnel -- which generally applies to those who served at least 20 years in uniform and are eligible to receive a pension -- cannot receive consulting fees, gifts, jobs, or titles from foreign governments without expressed approval from Congress.
The Post found, however, that approval is almost always granted. Out of the 500 requests since 2015, about 95 percent were approved. The daily also reported that some people negotiated jobs with foreign governments while still in active service.
There is no penalty for violating the law and enforcement is rare, according to the report. In addition once the applicants go to work in other countries, there’s no way to monitor their activities.
Foreign governments have long advanced their interests in Washington by hiring Americans as lobbyists, lawyers, political consultants, think tank analysts and public relations advisers.
But the hiring of retired US military personnel has accelerated over the past decade as repressive Persian Gulf rulers engaged in massive amounts of military spending and weapons purchases to strengthen their military partnerships with the Pentagon.
Many US generals and admirals have profited from connections built during wartime by later working for Middle Eastern countries where they were once stationed. Records show that a few American officers even negotiated jobs with foreign governments while they were still on active duty.
Another ethics concern raised by US senators is former military officials going to work for large military contractors (such as Boeing, General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin) and aiding them in obtaining major Pentagon contracts.