Washington, D.C. — Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and Brave New Foundation released Strategic Maneuvers, a new report and short film revealing the extent of the Pentagon’s revolving door phenomenon, in which retired high-ranking generals and admirals cash in on their years of military experience by taking lucrative jobs with the defense industry. CREW found 70 percent of the 108 three-and-four star generals and admirals who retired between 2009 and 2011 took jobs with defense contractors or consultants. In at least a few cases, these retirees have continued to advise the Department of Defense — all while on the payroll of the defense industry.
“High-ranking generals and admirals certainly earn their stars and stripes for their years of service in the U.S. military, but then some walk through the revolving door and cash in on their experience and connections,” stated CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “Some high-ranking officers go on to wear two hats: They serve as highly paid board members and consultants to defense contractors and, at the same time, serve as advisors to the Pentagon. Given their dual roles, how can either the public or the Defense Department be confident in receiving unbiased counsel from those whose paychecks now depend on maximizing profits for their new employers?”
“It’s a staggering conflict of interest,” said Brave New Foundation’s Executive Director, Jim Miller. “The public has a right to know if those responsible for spending our tax dollars are going to work for the very same contractors profiting from defense spending. We applaud CREW for shining a light on this issue with this report and we plan to share our video far and wide to help inform the public about this abuse of power, and build momentum for stopping it.”
In 2011 alone, the Department of Defense committed to spending nearly $100 billion with the five largest defense contractors — Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman. CREW’s research found at least nine of the top-level generals and admirals who retired between 2009 and 2011 took positions with those five companies. Sitting on the board of just one of these companies and attending a few meetings a year can allow a retired general or admiral to earn more than his yearly government salary.
“Hiring a retired general can be a financial boon for a defense contractor, but it remains a mystery to Americans exactly what these former military officials do to earn their paychecks,” continued Ms. Sloan. “With the possibility of massive cuts to the defense budget, contractors are scrambling to position themselves on the winning side, making retired generals and admirals a valuable commodity. Since the revolving door is unlikely to stop spinning anytime soon, clearly we need some new laws to manage retirees’ potential conflicts of interest.”