Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Retired generals getting rich from conflicts of interest

USA Today tells the unseemly tale of retired American generals who go to work for the defense industry, but also work as paid “mentors” to the military, which gets them helpful inside information — and all the while collecting generous pensions. My view: If you are going to do this mentoring, do it for free, ...

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Portrait: US Army (USA) General (GEN) George C. Marshall. (Uncovered), (Exact date shot UNKNOWN).

USA Today tells the unseemly tale of retired American generals who go to work for the defense industry, but also work as paid "mentors" to the military, which gets them helpful inside information -- and all the while collecting generous pensions. My view: If you are going to do this mentoring, do it for free, as an act of patriotism and gratitude. Otherwise it looks like a racket of insiders spreading the wealth around other insiders.

There will be a bunch of outraged responses about 30 years of dedicated service and how dare people question their ethics. My test on this is easy: Would George C. Marshall have accepted such payments? I doubt it. (Remember, he declined to write a memoir that would have made him wealthy because he thought it would have been improper to get into the failings of some of his comrades.)    

By the way, if the New York Times can win a Pulitzer for its story about generals going on TV too much, this one should win two.

USA Today tells the unseemly tale of retired American generals who go to work for the defense industry, but also work as paid “mentors” to the military, which gets them helpful inside information — and all the while collecting generous pensions. My view: If you are going to do this mentoring, do it for free, as an act of patriotism and gratitude. Otherwise it looks like a racket of insiders spreading the wealth around other insiders.

There will be a bunch of outraged responses about 30 years of dedicated service and how dare people question their ethics. My test on this is easy: Would George C. Marshall have accepted such payments? I doubt it. (Remember, he declined to write a memoir that would have made him wealthy because he thought it would have been improper to get into the failings of some of his comrades.)    

By the way, if the New York Times can win a Pulitzer for its story about generals going on TV too much, this one should win two.

Department of Defense

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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