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Bipartisan Bill Targets Secretive Practice of Retired U.S. Service Members Working for Foreign Powers

2023

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Charles E. Grassley are teaming up to tackle the secretive practice of retired U.S. service members working as consultants and contractors for foreign governments. The bipartisan bill, set to be introduced on Tuesday, aims to clamp down on this practice by imposing new restrictions and greater transparency.

The proposed legislation will introduce several key measures. Firstly, it will prohibit troops from negotiating post-retirement jobs with foreign powers while still on active duty. Secondly, military intelligence personnel will be banned from working for any countries except for close allies like Britain, Canada, and Australia. Additionally, the bill will impose stiffer financial penalties for those who violate these rules.

A significant aspect of the bill involves requiring the federal government to publicly disclose the names, job duties, and salary details of all retired service members receiving compensation from foreign governments. This level of transparency is long overdue and has been resisted by the Pentagon and State Department for some time.

The senators' decision to introduce this bill was prompted by investigations conducted by The Washington Post and the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight (POGO). These investigations revealed that over 500 retired U.S. military personnel, including numerous high-ranking officials, have been working for foreign governments since 2015, often in countries known for political repression.

While federal law currently allows retired troops to work for foreign governments, provided they receive approval from their branch of the armed forces and the State Department, the details of these arrangements have been shrouded in secrecy. The Post had to use the Freedom of Information Act to obtain more than 4,000 pages of documents to shed light on the matter.

Senators Warren and Grassley believe that this situation demands greater transparency and accountability. Warren, who leads the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on personnel, highlights the serious risks to national security when retired military officers trade their expertise for cash with foreign governments. Grassley, the senior Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, stresses the need for judiciousness in allowing other countries to leverage the skills and experience of U.S. veterans.

The investigation by The Post also revealed that nearly two-thirds of the foreign jobs taken by retired U.S. veterans were in the Middle East and North Africa, with the government's approval for such posts being almost automatic.

In response to concerns raised by lawmakers, officials at the Pentagon and State Department stated that they are revisiting their policies and will report their findings to Congress in July. The senators' bipartisan bill seeks to address the current shortcomings and increase oversight to safeguard national security.

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