WASHINGTON: Fifteen retired US generals and admirals have worked as paid consultants for the Saudi Defence Ministry since 2016, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
They are among more than 500 retired US military personnel — including scores of generals and admirals — who have taken lucrative jobs with foreign governments since 2015. Most of their employers “are known for human rights abuses and political repression,” the report added.
Saudi Arabia’s paid US advisers have included retired Marine Gen. James Jones, a national security adviser to President Barack Obama, and retired Army Gen. Keith Alexander, who led the National Security Agency under Obama and President George W. Bush.
The newspaper obtained this information under the Freedom of Information Act that allows the media to seek such information from the US government. Others who have worked as consultants for the Saudis include a retired four-star Air Force general and a former commanding general of US troops in Afghanistan.
Most of the retired US personnel have worked as civilian contractors for Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Persian Gulf monarchies, playing a critical role in upgrading their militaries, the report added. The US Congress permits retired troops as well as reservists to work for foreign governments if they first obtain approval from their branch of the armed forces and the State Department. But the US government keeps the hirings secret.
To seek this information, the Post sued the US Army, the Air Force, the Navy, the Marine Corps and the State Department in a federal court under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). After a two-year legal battle, the Post obtained more than 4,000 pages of documents, including case files for about 450 retired soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. The documents show that foreign governments pay handsomely for US military talent, with salary and benefit packages reaching six and, sometimes, seven figures.
At the top of the scale, active four-star generals earn $203,698 a year in basic pay. In September, US District Judge Amit P. Mehta ruled largely in favour of the Post and ordered the government to release the pay packages and other withheld material. Documents show that a retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, 63 — who briefly served as national security adviser to President Donald Trump — collected $449,807 from Russian and Turkish interests in 2015, one year after he retired from the Army. He also served as Director Defence Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014 Another US general, who worked as Cyber Security Adviser to the Saudi government is Keith Alexander. Gen. Alexander retired from the military in March 2014.
Karl Eikenberry, 70, is a retired three-star Army general who commanded US and Nato troops in Afghanistan and later served as the US ambassador in Kabul. Since 2021, Eikenberry has worked as a senior adviser to the Saudi Defence Ministry.
The report noted that some US generals have moved to Saudi Arabia for employment after they were forced to retire from the US military for misconduct. Retired Navy Rear Adm. Steven G. Smith worked in Riyadh from 2017 to 2020 as an adviser to the Defence Ministry under a contract with Booz Allen Hamilton, a major international consulting firm. Smith did not seek approval for the work from the Navy and the State Department.