Press Releases

DelBene, Cloud, Crow Demand Answers on Retired Military Officers’ Lucrative Jobs with Foreign Countries

Today, Representatives Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Michael Cloud (TX-27), and Jason Crow (CO-06) demanded answers from the federal government on recent media investigations revealing how hundreds of retired military officers were permitted to take lucrative jobs advising foreign governments, some with known human rights abuses and histories of political oppression.

In a bipartisan letter to the Secretaries of Defense and State, the lawmakers call for greater oversight and transparency around the process that allows retired military officials to work for foreign governments or firms controlled by foreign governments.

“The public has a compelling interest in understanding the extent of influence that foreign powers may have over America’s former military leaders,” the lawmakers wrote. “The public also has the right to know if high-ranking retired military officers are taking advantage of their roles in government to create employment opportunities, some paying seven figure salaries, with foreign governments.”

Under current law, retired or reserve military officials who want to work for a foreign government or receive gifts, payments, or other items of value from a foreign state must first obtain approval from the secretary of their military branch and the Department of State. This law has its basis in the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which bars any person holding an “office of profit or trust,” from accepting payment from a foreign state without the consent of Congress. This provision still applies to retired military personnel given they remain subject to recall into active duty.

Newly released documents, obtained through investigations from The Washington Post and the Project on Government Oversight, shed light on the more than 500 servicemembers who received waivers to work for foreign governments, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Azerbaijan, and China.

The lawmakers outline four key areas of concern:

  • The lack of transparency with Congress and the American people throughout the waiver approval process.
  • The lack of standardized internal procedures at the Department of Defense to implement the waiver approval process.
  • The lack of enforcement when retired U.S. military personnel violate the law by failing to report that they are advising foreign governments.
  • How potential concerns identified during the waiver approval process are addressed, including conflicts of interest and the possession of sensitive military information.

The letter requests answers from the Departments of Defense and State around the lack of consistency, transparency, & accountability throughout the waiver approval process. 

A copy of the letter can be found here.