Elizabeth Warren Proposes Anti-Corruption Policy For Pentagon

The Department of Defense Ethics and Transparency Act aims to limit contractors' influence on the military, curb foreign influence and increase transparency.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) proposed legislation on Thursday to address what she said was corporate influence at the Pentagon.

Warren, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, introduced the Department of Defense Ethics and Transparency Act. The Democrat said the proposed legislation aims to limit the influence of defense contractors on the military, curb foreign influence on retired senior military officers, and increase transparency regarding the Defense Department’s interactions with contractors like Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

“There are talented and patriotic Americans who work in the defense industry. And there’s no question that public and private collaboration has helped produce real advances in new technology,” Warren wrote in a Medium post on Thursday. “But today, the coziness between defense lobbyists, Congress, and the Pentagon ― what former President Dwight D. Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex ― tilts countless decisions, big and small, away from legitimate national security interests, and toward the desires of giant corporations that thrive off taxpayer dollars.”

The legislation would ban large defense contractors from hiring senior Defense Department officials and military officers for four years after they leave the department. Under the bill, a former employee of a defense contractor who joins the government would be completely barred from working on anything that could influence their former bosses.

According to the Project on Government Oversight’s Center for Defense Information, nearly 400 senior defense officials and military officers became lobbyists, board members, executives or consultants for defense contractors in 2018.

Defense Department officials would be banned from owning or trading stock of giant defense contractors, which Warren called “a no-brainer.” The plan would also make it illegal for American former senior national security officials to get hired to work for foreign governments.

Defense contractors also would be required under the proposed legislation to disclose the full scope of their lobbying activities, including who they’re meeting with at the Defense Department, what the lobbying is in relation to and what unclassified information is being shared. Warren also said federal open records laws would apply to private contractors to increase transparency.

“In 2017, Lockheed alone received more than $35 billion in taxpayer dollars from defense contracts. That’s more than the federal government spent on the entire budget for NASA,” Warren wrote. “Many of these private companies are under pressure to show year over year revenue to their shareholders and investors on Wall Street. That means they are constantly pressuring the federal government for more spending ― regardless of our national security needs. It’s long past time for real reform.”

Warren also said she intends to also cut what she called a “bloated defense budget.” The bill would identify which defense programs only exist to give contractors money and cut those programs, while keeping ones she said would “actually benefit American security in the 21st century.”

The bill is the second proposed defense legislation in the past two days for Warren, who is also running for president in 2020. On Wednesday, the senator introduced the Defense Climate Resiliency and Readiness Act, which aims to have the Pentagon achieve net-zero carbon emissions for all non-combat bases and infrastructure by 2030.