December 08, 2022

Warren, Jacobs Call Out Consulting Firms For Work On Behalf of Foreign Governments

A Post investigation released last month revealed that “more than 500 retired U.S. military personal - including scores of generals and admirals” have taken jobs with foreign governments - “mostly in countries known for human rights abuses and political repression”

“The American people assume former government officials and retired military officers will not work against the national security interests of the United States. Your firm’s affiliation with these regimes raises major questions about whether this assumption is incorrect”

Text of Letters (PDF)

Washington D.C. - U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and U.S. Representative Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), a member of the House Armed Services and House Foreign Affairs Committees, 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 the letter, the lawmakers request information about the employees of their firms that have worked on behalf of foreign governments with a history of repression and human rights abuses and how the firms ensure its officials are not involved in illegal or inappropriate activities that harm U.S. national security interests. 

The letters were sent to five firms, all of which reportedly hired former military officials: The Cohen Group, Booz Allen Hamilton, Jones Group International & Ironhand Security, IronNet Cybersecurity  and Fairfax National Security Solutions, LLC. 

The new information about these firms’ use of former military leaders “was an alarming finding, raising questions about whether these former U.S. military officials and the firms that hire them are working in the best interests of the United States government and its citizens, or in the interests of some of the world’s worst regimes,” the members of Congress wrote. 

The investigation by The Washington Post and the Project On Government Oversight found that between April 2010 and August 2020, “the State Department issued over 500 waivers to retiring servicemembers, allowing them to take emoluments to work on behalf of foreign interests.” The trend of American servicemembers taking “lucrative” roles with foreign governments has accelerated over the past decade, as foreign governments work to leverage American expertise and “political clout.” Many of the countries hiring former U.S. servicemembers have committed appalling human rights abuses, and these relationships may undermine a key plank of U.S. foreign policy that places restrictions on assistance to foreign governments accused of human rights violations. By funneling U.S. expertise through ‘consulting’ firms that collect six- and seven-figure paychecks, foreign governments have been able to build up their military forces with U.S. assistance and without ongoing oversight from the U.S. government. 

In the letter the lawmakers highlighted that these arrangements benefit foreign governments by providing them with soft power and influence in Washington. Many high-ranking former generals, admirals, and other servicemembers have boosted the interests of these foreign governments without disclosing their financial ties.

“The emoluments clause of the constitution requires retired military officers to receive congressional approval before accepting compensation from any foreign government. This is one of our country’s founding anti-corruption provisions to “limit foreign influence on federal officers.”’ continued the lawmakers. 

Senator Warren has led efforts to fight government corruption and the revolving door that lets former government officials cash in on their service. 

  • Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Chuck Grassley sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, raising concerns about the Defense Department’s frequent approval of high-ranking retired military members’ work for foreign governments. The senators’ concerns follow investigative reporting by the Washington Post detailing scores of retired U.S. servicemembers who took lucrative jobs with foreign governments.
  • Senator Warren’s Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act is sweeping anti-corruption legislation that would rein in corruption, strengthen ethics, end lobbying as we know it, improve the integrity of the judiciary, and reform campaign finance law. 
  • Her DoD Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act (S. 2396) would require the explicit approval of the Secretary of State 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 bans former senior Pentagon officials from lobbying and behind-the-scenes lobbying DoD for four years. 
  • Senator Warren has introduced legislation that would ensure compliance with the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause by requiring the President and Vice President to disclose and divest any potential financial conflicts of interest, and requiring presidential appointees to recuse themselves from any specific matters involving the President’s financial conflicts of interest that come before their agencies.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In 2015, Senator Warren sent a letter to Brookings questioning financial conflicts of interest and previously undisclosed financial industry editorial input into a report questioning the Department of Labor’s Conflict of Interest rule.
  • Senator Warren has also worked to secure commitments from nominees — including Secretary Austin and other Department of Defense nominees — on ethics standards.