A new investigation by The Washington Post has revealed that since 2015, more than 500 retired military officials have taken jobs with foreign governments, with a majority of them going to work for countries in North Africa or the Middle East, some of which have been accused of human rights violations.
The report shows that the consulting contracts can be extremely lucrative, in some cases paying up to seven figures in salary and benefits. Australia’s government offered former senior U.S. Navy officials more than $10 million for consulting work, and Azerbaijan offered one retired U.S. Air Force general a job paying $5,000 per day, standing in stark contrast to the base government pay of an active-duty four-star general with more than two decades of experience, which averages $203,698.
Saudi Arabia, which is under fire for repeated alleged human rights violations, including the forced disappearance and murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, has hired at least 15 retired U.S. generals and admirals to fill consulting roles at the country’s Defense Ministry, according to the report.
In an interview with The Post, retired general James L. Jones, who served as national security advisor during the Obama administration and runs two Virginia-based consulting firms that have contracts with Saudi Arabia, claims he was encouraged by the Trump administration to accept more contracts from the country’s Defense Ministry, and currently has 53 U.S. citizens employed in Riyadh, including 8 retired generals and admirals as well as 32 former lower-ranking military personnel.
While the U.S. Constitution specifies under its Emoluments Clause restrictions that retired military personnel cannot accept consulting fees, gifts, jobs, or titles from foreign governments without Congressional approval, The Post found that approval is almost always granted — with 95% of the 500 requests since 2015 being approved, and some personnel negotiating jobs with foreign governments while still actively serving in the U.S. military. While the law exists, there is no penalty for violating it and actual enforcement is rare, according to the report.
Fresh to the news cycle, it remains to be seen if this recent report will draw attention from members of Congress — but in a line of work that demands absolute loyalty to the U.S. Constitution and what it represents, high-ranking, active duty military staff negotiating jobs with oppressive foreign governments is sure to raise some pointed questions.