April 25, 2023

Senators Warren, Grassley Call for Transparency from Department of Defense on Former U.S. Military Personnel Working for Foreign Governments

Text of Letter (PDF) | DoD Response (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Personnel, and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, raising concerns over retired military officers working for foreign governments. The lawmakers are following up on a response to their November 2022 letter, in which the Department of Defense (DoD) provided a list of former military personnel that had requested permission to work for a foreign government, but redacted the names of many of the approved applicants.

“Congress and the public have a right to know which former DoD personnel have applied for approval to work, or who are currently working, for foreign governments, regardless of their rank,” wrote the lawmakers. “After all, they are using their U.S. government service as the basis to earn money from foreign governments.” 

In addition to the redacted names and salaries paid by foreign governments, the response from DoD in March also noted that twelve applications had been denied; however, no other information was provided, such as the reason for the denials. Additional information, including individuals’ ranks, were also redacted from the report. Earlier this month, DoD issued a memorandum ordering an assessment of the department’s current processes. 

“We appreciate the steps DoD has recently taken; however, that assessment does not preclude Congress from also receiving the full and complete set of information we requested to independently oversee this process,” concluded the senators. 

To crack down on the corrupting influence of the revolving door between senior national security officials and foreign governments, the lawmakers are asking DoD for an explanation for the redactions no later than May 8, 2023. Senator Warren is also chairing a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Personnel, in which she will question Pentagon officials and ethics experts about problems with the revolving door, retired military officers working for foreign governments, and issues with executive branch officials owning stocks in companies impacted by their official actions.

Senator Warren has been a leader on the corrupting influence of the revolving door between senior national security officials and foreign governments: 

  • In March 2023, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) sent letters to eight federal Inspectors General (IGs) across the executive branch, urging them to review their agencies’ ethics policies and conflict of interest rules.
  • In December 2022, Senator Warren and Representative Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) sent letters to five Beltway consulting firms requesting information about their work for and on behalf of foreign governments following reporting by the Washington Post revealing that, more than 500 retired U.S. military personal – including scores of generals and admirals” have taken jobs with foreign governments.
  • In November 2022, Senators Warren and Chuck Grassley sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III raising concerns about the Defense Department (DoD)’s frequent approval of high-ranking retired military members’ work for foreign governments. The senators’ concerns follow recent investigative reporting by the Washington Post detailing scores of retired U.S. servicemembers who took lucrative jobs with foreign governments.
  • On October 3, 2022, Senator Warren sent a letter to the Brookings Institution, seeking answers about how Brooking ensures its funding agreements from foreign governments do not undermine the independence of its research and expressing concerns that the organization is not able to ensure its leaders are avoiding illegal or inappropriate lobbying.
  • On July 15, 2022, Senator Warren sent a letter to the Brookings Institution following reports that former Marine Corps General John R. Allen, the former President of the Brookings Institution, is under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for making false statements and withholding documents about his role in possible illegal lobbying for the government of Qatar.
  • In December 2020, Senator Warren and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal today reintroduced the Anti-Corruption & Public Integrity Act, to fundamentally change the way Washington does business and restore the American public's faith in democracy, including by creating a new, independent anti-corruption agency dedicated to enforcing federal ethics laws and by expanding an independent and empowered Congressional ethics office insulated from Congressional politics.
  • In May 2019, Senator Warren introduced 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 DoD.
  • On November 29, 2018, Senator Warren sent letters to 23 U.S. lobbying firms regarding past and present contracts for lobbying work for the Saudi government.
  • On November 15, 2018, Senator Warren sent a letter to three private consulting firms requesting information about services provided by the three companies to the Saudi government.  The senator's letter asks the firms about their relationship with the Saudi government and questions their business with the Kingdom in the wake of its apparently premeditated assassination of journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi.
  • In October 2018, Senator Warren sent a letter to McKinsey & Company requesting information about the scope of its consulting services to, or for the benefit of, the Saudi government and requesting that a full, transparent accounting of how McKinsey's work may have enabled the Kingdom to repress critics and commit other human rights abuses.