Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have introduced bipartisan legislation requiring public reporting by retired service members who work on behalf of foreign governments.
The bill would create civil penalties for retired officers who break the law.
Companion legislation has been introduced in the House by Reps. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) and Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.).
It’s no surprise that foreign governments would wish to capitalize on the knowledge and expertise of retired U.S. military members, but it’s critical to our national security that we be judicious in how we allow other countries to leverage their skills and experience. Unfortunately, we’ve seen that the current safeguards aren’t sufficient. This bipartisan proposal seeks to improve compliance through additional transparency and new penalties.Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
The Department of Defense is letting too many retired military officers trade their military service and experience to foreign governments for cash – creating serious risks to our national security. This system needs serious transparency and accountability – and my bipartisan bill will do just that by requiring public reporting on service members working for foreign governments and putting real penalties in place if they break the law.Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
Background Information from members of Congress:
The Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, one of our country’s founding anti-corruption provisions, requires retired military officers to receive congressional approval before accepting compensation from any foreign government. In order to receive approval, each retired military officer must receive permission from their military service secretary and the Secretary of State.
Recent investigations revealed that the State Department and military services approved hundreds of officers working for foreign governments.
About 95 percent of applications were granted, indicating requests “are largely rubber-stamped.”
Anyone who works for a foreign government without seeking permission risks losing retirement pay, yet the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, an agency of the Department of Defense (DOD), only exercised this punishment for fewer than five people.
Specifically, the Retired Officers Conflict of Interest Act would do the following:
- Prohibit service members from negotiating foreign government employment or work for a private contractor on behalf of a foreign government while still on active duty
- Require approvals to be conditioned on whether it would harm U.S. national security
- Prohibit intelligence officers from working for foreign governments for 30 months, other than for our closest allies
- Close the loophole that allows officers to work for a foreign government without review if it is for a U.S.-based contractor
- Require all retiring service members and intelligence officers to be notified of these restrictions;
- Rescind approval to work for a foreign government if the individual failed to notify the State Department and their military service secretary of significant changes to their employment
- Require public reporting on approvals and for those approvals to be included in a searchable database that includes their name, military service, former office, nature of work, the foreign government they are employed by and the amount of money received
- Require retired service members to report any foreign employment annually for the first five years they are retired
- Create civil penalties of $100,000 or the amount of money received for anyone who works for a foreign government without receiving approval or fails to report foreign employment to DOD; and Create additional penalties for violations, including being prohibited for five years from accepting employment or compensation from foreign governments, accepting employment with the federal government, serving on a federal advisory committee or in any other advisory capacity and holding a security clearance
In November 2022, Grassley and Warren 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.
In April 2023, Grassley and Warren sent an additional letter to Secretary Austin raising further concerns over retired military officers working for foreign governments.
Full text of the bill can be found here.