Retired Military Officials Are Finding High-Paying Jobs With the Saudi Government

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn
FILE -- In this July 24, 2012 file photo, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn speaks at the Defense Intelligence Agency change of directorship at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Maryland. Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess Jr. turned over directorship of DIA to Flynn after serving in the position since 2009. (Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo/U.S. Department of Defense)

Hundreds of retired military officials took high-paying jobs in foreign governments, at times making up to seven figures in salary and benefits, despite how some of the countries have been accused of human rights violations, according to a report.

A new investigation by The Washington Post found that more than 500 retired military personnel have taken jobs with foreign governments since 2015, and a majority of the positions were located in North Africa or the Middle East, including consulting jobs for Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Defense.

The jobs are also highly lucrative, The Post found through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Australia's government, for example, offered former senior US Navy officials more than $10 million for consulting deals. In Azerbaijan, one retired US Air Force general was offered a consulting job with a pay of $5,000 a day.

In comparison, an active four-star general with more than two decades of experience receives up to $203,698 a year in basic pay, according to The Post.

Saudi Arabia, which has been repeatedly accused of human rights violations, has hired at least 15 retired US generals and admirals as consultants for the country's Defense Ministry, The Post reported.

One former Navy Seal was hired as a special operations advisor for $258,000 a year.

Saudi Arabia's offense against outside dissenters also has not stopped US military officers from taking work from the country.

In 2018, Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for The Post, was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. The country's officials later admitted that Saudi agents carried out a "rogue operation" without the knowledge of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. However, the CIA determined that the crown prince ordered the assassination.

Still, dozens of military personnel have accepted jobs contracted from Saudi Arabia since Khashoggi's killing.

Retired general James L. Jones, who served as national security advisor during the Obama administration, has two Virginia-based consulting firms — Ironhand Security LLC and Jones Group International LLC — that have contracts with Saudi Arabia.

In an interview with The Post, Jones said that he was encouraged by the Trump administration to accept more contracts from the country's Defense Ministry. According to Jones, his companies have four such contracts, with 53 U.S. citizens in Riyadh. Eight are retired generals and admirals, and 32 are former lower-ranking military personnel, The Post reported.

"Nobody ever came to us and said, 'Hey, we think you ought to pull out,'" Jones told The Post. "I don't know what the alternative would have been if we had pulled away. I was worried that (the Saudis) would possibly drift off to other relationships with the Chinese and the Russians, and I didn't think that would be very good."

Charles Wald, a retired four-star Air Force general, who accepted a job to work in Riyadh for one of Jones' firms said there was considerable debate on whether to stop working for Saudi Arabi after Khashoggi's killing.

"We asked ourselves, are we basically turning a blind eye toward immortality? Or supporting a legitimate government," Wald told The Post. The firm decided to stay.

Other military personnel have taken jobs in Indonesia or the United Arab Emirates.

Under the Emoluments Clause Restrictions, the Constitution states that retired U.S. military personnel, which generally applies to those who served at least 20 years in uniform and are eligible to receive a pension, cannot receive consulting fees, gifts, jobs, or titles from foreign governments without expressed approval from Congress.

The Post found however that approval is almost always granted. Out of the 500 requests since 2015, about 95% were approved. The Post also reported that some people negotiated jobs with foreign governments during active service.

There is no penalty for violating the law and enforcement is rare, according to the publication.

One of the more prolific cases of a former U.S. military officer being penalized for accepting fees from a foreign government was Michael Flynn, the former national security advisor to Donald Trump.

An investigation by the Defense Department found that Flynn received about $450,000 from Russian and Turkish sources in 2015, a year after he retired from the Army, according to The Post.

Flynn pled guilty in December 2017 for lying to the FBI about his ties to a Russian ambassador. Trump pardoned Flynn in November 2020.

Story Continues