New Report from Senator Warren Uncovers Defense Industry’s Abuse of Revolving Door Hiring Practices
Investigation Reveals Hundreds of Former Military Officials, Members of Congress, and Government Staff Serve As Board Members or Execs at Companies They Used to Regulate Today, Warren Will Chair Senate Hearing on Public Integrity and Anti-Corruption at DoD and Across Government
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, released a new investigative report: “Pentagon Alchemy: How Defense Officials Pass Through the Revolving Door and Peddle Brass for Gold.” The investigation reveals that nearly 700 instances of former high-ranking DoD and other government officials now work at the top 20 defense contractors, and highlights the need to close the revolving door for ex-government and military officials hired to executive board and lobbyist positions at large defense contractors.
“When government officials cash in on their public service by lobbying, advising, or serving as board members and executives for the companies they used to regulate, it undermines public officials’ integrity and casts doubt on the fairness of government contracting,” wrote Senator Warren. “This problem is especially concerning and pronounced in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the United States’ defense industry.”
Senator Warren commissioned this report to examine the revolving door of DoD officials currently working in the defense industry. The results confirm that the door is still spinning rapidly – highlighting the need for legislative and regulatory overhauls to address the problem. Senator Warren has introduced the Department of Defense Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act which would “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.
Key findings of the report include:
- Top defense contractors hire hundreds of former government officials, most as lobbyists: As of 2021, there have been 672 instances in which former government officials, military officers, members of Congress and senior legislative staff were found to be working for the top 20 defense contractors. In 91 percent of these cases, the individuals who went through the revolving door became registered lobbyists for big defense contractors.
- Defense industry consolidation increases the risks from big corporations abuse of the revolving door: DoD is the largest federal contracting agency – of the total $692.3 billion in contracts awarded by the federal government in FY 2021, 61 percent were awarded by DoD, with almost 40 percent going exclusively to 10 defense contractors.
- Big defense contractors hired the most revolving door lobbyists and stocked their boards with former government officials: Boeing hired the most former government officials, 85, which includes six as high-ranking executives, two as board members and 77 as registered lobbyists. Raytheon hired 64, three as board members, one as a corporate executive and 60 as registered lobbyists. General Electric hired 60 revolving door lobbyists. These examples shed light on the frequency with which defense contractors use the revolving door to hire former, high-ranking government and military officials into senior executive or board positions.
On Wednesday, April 26, 2023 at 3:00 PM ET, Senator Warren will chair a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Personnel, where 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’s investigation is a continuation of her long standing fight to end corrupt revolving door practices at DoD and across government:
- In April 2023, Senator Warren and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, raising concerns over retired military officers working for foreign governments.
- In December 2022, Senator 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. service members who took lucrative jobs with foreign governments.
- In December 2022, Senator Warren sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin raising a series of questions for the DoD regarding press reports that former Google chief executive officer Eric Schmidt used his positions on defense advisory boards to further his own financial interests.
- In October 2022, Senator Warren and Senator Whitehouse (D-R.I.), along with Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Jesús “Chuy” García (D-Ill.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) sent a letter to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission , the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the U.S. Department of Treasury, the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, seeking information about the steps each regulator is taking to stop the revolving door between financial regulatory agencies and the cryptocurrency industry.
- In October 2022, Senator Warren and Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo underscoring the dangers of Big Tech’s digital trade agenda, following up on their July 2022 letter.
- 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 July 2022, Senator Warren and Representative Jayapal sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo raising questions about the revolving door between the Department of Commerce and Big Tech companies, and its potential impact on global digital trade rules.
- In June 2022, Senator Warren and Representatives Katie Porter (D-Calif.) and Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), sent a letter to three government watchdogs regarding troubling reports of Intuit’s abuse of the revolving door and the company’s hiring of former federal regulators and influence-peddlers to defend its shady business practices.
- In May 2022, Senator Warren introduced the Department of Defense Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act, which would enforce limits to the influence of contractors on the military, restrict foreign influence on retired senior military officers, and assert greater transparency over contractors and their interaction with the DoD.
- In February 2022, Senator Warren and Representative Jayapal called on two inspectors general to open an investigation into the unethical revolving door between the world’s largest accounting firms and the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service.
- In March 2021, Senator Warren sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin praising his decision to suspend dozens of Defense Department advisory boards and relieve hundreds of appointees to these boards pending a “zero-based review.” In the letter, Senator Warren also called for improvements as the Department of Defense (DoD) considers candidates for repopulating the boards that survive DoD's review.
- Senator Warren has also fought to preserve existing ethics laws, including defeating a provision from DoD and Senator Inhofe in the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act to weaken Section 1045.
- In December 2020, Senator Warren and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) reintroduced the Anti-Corruption & Public Integrity Act, bicameral legislation to fundamentally change the way Washington does business and includes provisions that would strengthen ethics laws and disclosure for federal advisory committees.
- In July 2019, Senator Warren wrote to Commerce’s Designated Agency Ethics Official regarding potentially serious conflicts of interest for the two most senior Commerce officials responsible for managing exemptions from President Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs
- Senator Warren and Representative Jayapal introduced the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, which, if passed into law, would firmly shut the revolving door.
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