May 16, 2019

Senator Warren Introduces New Legislation to Strengthen Ethics and Transparency at the Defense Department

The Department of Defense Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act Places New Restrictions on Former Officials Lobbying the Defense Department and Advising Foreign Governments

Washington, DC – United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, will introduce today The Department of Defense Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act, legislation to limit the influence of contractors on the military, constrain foreign influence on retired senior military officers, and assert greater transparency over contractors and their interaction with the Department of Defense (DoD). The bill is consistent with Senator Warren’s vision for a 21st century defense policy that includes “ending the stranglehold of defense contractors” that occurs when “the Pentagon is captured by the so-called ‘Big Five’ defense contractors—and taxpayers are picking up the bill,” and with her sweeping Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, the most ambitious anti-corruption legislation since Watergate.

Representative Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Chairwoman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, will introduce a similar bill in the House of Representatives.

“We need to fundamentally change the way Washington does business and put power back in the hands of the American people – that includes making sure national security decisions are driven only by what best keeps Americans safe, and not by defense industry profit-making,” said Senator Warren. “That’s why I have introduced the most sweeping anti-corruption legislation since Watergate, and why today I am introducing a bill to crack down on corporate influence at the Pentagon.”

“We need to stop making it easy for predatory contractors to make a fast buck off American taxpayers by price-gouging the Pentagon with bloated contracts,” said Congresswoman Speier. “Our laws and rules are too lax and give contractors too much power and access. Industry should be a tool of national defense, not the other way around. This bill goes a long way toward fixing that imbalance.”

Defense contractors often recruit former DoD officials through the revolving door to become lobbyists, then use those former officials’ relationships and access to peddle influence at the Pentagon and to secure lucrative defense contracts. According to the Project on Government Oversight’s Center for Defense Information, in 2018, nearly 400 high-ranking DoD officials and military officers took a spin through the revolving door to become lobbyists, board members, executives, or consultants for defense contractors. Of these former DoD officials, including top brass in the U.S. military, one in four went to work for one of the DoD’s top five contractors.

The Department of Defense Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act would:

Limit the Revolving Door and Restrict Contractor Influence
  • Limit the revolving door between senior DoD officials and industry by imposing a 4-year ban on giant contractors hiring senior DoD officials and on contractors hiring former DoD employees who managed their contract;
  • Extend to 4 years the existing prohibition on former military generals lobbying the DoD;
  • Require defense contractors to submit detailed annual reports to DoD regarding former senior DoD officials who are subsequently employed by contractors;
  • Raise the recusal standard for DoD employees by prohibiting them from participating in any matter that affects the financial interests of their former employer for 4 years; and
  • Ban senior DoD officials from owning any stock in a major defense contractor and bans all DoD employees from owning any stock in contractors if the employee can use their official position to influence the stock’s value.  

  • Limit Foreign Influence
  • Require the military service secretaries to submit annual reports to Congress containing the emoluments waivers issued to retired senior military officers to be hired by or receive compensation from foreign governments;
  • Require explicit approval of the Secretary of State, in consideration of U.S. national security interests, for all former senior officials of the White House and Departments of State, Defense, and Treasury who seek paid work for a foreign government or non-governmental foreign entity; and
  • Ban all former military and civilian intelligence officers from working for any foreign government or private entity that operates predominantly on behalf of a foreign government.

  • Ensure Contractor Transparency
  • Require large defense contractors to submit a report of their lobbying activities, including with whom they’re meeting, what they’re lobbying about, and what (unclassified) information they’re sharing.
  • Require the Secretary of Defense to publish online copies of all DoD contracts worth more than $10 million, including any relevant and available performance history of the contractor;
  • Make private defense contractors subject to the Freedom of Information Act, the federal open records law; and
  • Require the military services to maintain public websites with the names, biographies, and any associated financial disclosures, as well as DoD Inspector General reports and command climate surveys, regarding all active and reserve component senior military officers.

  • “Our investigation found current ethics laws are woefully inadequate when it comes to stopping senior Pentagon officials from cashing in on their experience with defense contractors. The American people deserve to know how defense contractors and foreign governments seek to influence decisions of where and how we go to war. This legislation provides overdue transparency and teeth to stop the revolving door eroding the public's confidence in government,” said Mandy Smithberger, Director of the Center for Defense Information at the Project On Government Oversight.