More than 500 retired U.S. military personnel — including scores of generals and admirals — have taken lucrative jobs since 2015 working for foreign governments, mostly in countries known for human rights abuses and political repression, according to a Washington Post investigation.
In Saudi Arabia, for example, 15 retired U.S. generals and admirals have worked as paid consultants for the Defense Ministry since 2016. The ministry is led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, who U.S. intelligence agencies say approved the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Post contributing columnist, as part of a brutal crackdown on dissent.
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.
Others who have worked as consultants for the Saudis since Khashoggi’s murder include a retired four-star Air Force general and a former commanding general of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Brandon Brockmyer, POGO’s director of investigations and research, said retired senior military officers often testify before Congress and appear on television to debate national security, but rarely divulge whether they are on a foreign government’s payroll.
“The public is working on the assumption that their sole loyalty is to the United States,” he said. “The public has the right to know whether and how a foreign power has access to their expertise.”
Craig Whitlock and Nate Jones at WP:
Under federal ethics rules, military personnel who manage weapons programs or major defense contracts must observe a “cooling off” period of one or two years before they can accept jobs from companies they did business with while in uniform. The regulations, which also apply to other federal officials who interact with government contractors, are intended to prevent conflicts of interest and self-dealing. In some cases, officials face a lifetime ban from taking such jobs.
But the conflict-of-interest rules do not apply in the same way to retired U.S. troops who want to work for a foreign government. While they must obtain federal approval for the job, they are allowed to negotiate foreign employment before they retire, whenever they want, even with countries where they have been stationed for the U.S. military.