Mattis served on the board from 2013 to 2017 before joining the Trump administration.
Former defense secretary Jim Mattis has been elected to the board of General Dynamics, the company announced after a vote on Wednesday, allowing him to reclaim a powerful position at the top of America’s defense industry.
The announcement comes at a time when General Dynamics ― one of the last military-industrial conglomerates remaining from the industry’s Reagan-era heyday ― is trying to remake itself for the information age. Last year, the company sealed a deal to buy CSRA, a massive Beltway IT contractor, for almost $10 billion. It is the fourth-largest corporate recipient of U.S. government contract dollars.
“Jim is a thoughtful, deliberate and principled leader with a proven track record of selfless service to our nation,” chief executive Phebe Novakovic said in a statement. “We are honored to have him on our board.”
Mattis’s compensation and benefits package is to be detailed in a later financial disclosure form.
Mattis is the latest influential military official to join a major defense contractor, part of the “revolving door” between business and government that has long concerned government ethics experts.
A report released late last year by the Project on Government Oversight found that defense contractors had hired at least 50 high-level government officials since Trump became president, among more than 600 such instances in the past decade.
Mattis began his first stint on the board of General Dynamics in 2013 after more than 40 years with the U.S. Marine Corps. From 2010 to 2013, he led U.S. Central Command, which spearheads the military’s operations in the Middle East, including in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.He commanded a rare respect bordering on reverence among many members of the armed services, and cultivated a public image defined by uncompromising toughness.
He never married, and is often described as a “warrior monk” for his bookish devotion to military strategy and history. He adopted the call sign “chaos,” which stands for “Colonel Has An Outstanding Solution,” he told an audience at the National Harbor in 2017.
Mattis led the Defense Department during the first two years of Trump’s presidency. Trump frequently expressed admiration for him in public, referring to him as one of “my generals,” and calling him by his other nickname, “Mad Dog” Mattis.
Behind the scenes, Mattis often seemed to check the president’s instincts. According to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s 2018 book “Fear: Trump in the White House” Mattis once told an associate that “we’re not going to do any of that. We’re going to be much more measured,” after Trump had told the defense secretary by phone to kill Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.Mattis left government for the second time in December. He had clashed with the president over a plan to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan, saying Trump should appoint someone who was “better aligned” with his views.
As defense secretary, he led numerous initiatives designed to make the Defense Department more efficient and business-friendly, an approach that was helpful to defense contractors such as his former employer.
When Mattis became defense secretary in early 2017, he resigned from numerous positions in the private sector — including one at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank — and a handful of charities. When he stepped down from General Dynamics’s board, he promised to divest all stock associated with his seat. He also forfeited stock holdings and options that had not yet vested at the time he rejoined the government, which must have added up to several hundreds of thousands of dollars, based on financial disclosure forms.Additionally, Mattis pledged that he would not “participate personally and substantially in any particular matter that to my knowledge has a direct and predictable effect on the financial interests of General Dynamics” as defense secretary until he had divested of his holdings or obtained a written waiver, according to an ethics pledge he submitted at the time.
Mattis also promised not to participate personally or substantially in any matter concerning the now-disgraced Silicon Valley blood testing start-up Theranos, in which he was an investor. According to his ethics pledge at the time, Mattis was not required to divest of his Theranos stock. The company began plans to dissolve in September.
Board members at General Dynamics are given lucrative stock holdings and options, and are often closely involved in major business decisions. Board member responsibilities at General Dynamics include “reviewing, approving and monitoring the company’s business strategies, annual operating plan and significant corporate actions,” according to the company’s corporate governance guidelines. Board members also have responsibility for “advising and counseling management” and ensuring that appropriate ethics policies are in place with respect to the company’s relationship with customers.Separately, a new provision included in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2018 prohibits retired officials such as Mattis from engaging in “lobbying activities with respect to the Department of Defense.” Such lobbying activities could include “any oral or written communication … to a covered executive branch official or a covered legislative branch official that is made on behalf of a client” with regard to a range of federal policies.
Currently, six of General Dynamics’s 12 board members are former high-ranking government officials.
- Rudy deLeon served as deputy secretary of defense from 2000 to 2001;
- retired Navy Adm. Cecil Haney led the U.S. Strategic Command from 2013 to 2016;
- retired Air Force Gen. Lester Lyles led the Air Force Material Command from 2000 to 2003;
- retired British Army Gen. Peter Wall was chief of the general staff for the British Army from 2010 to 2014; and
- chairman and chief executive Novakovic has worked for the CIA, the Defense Department and the Office of Management and Budget.
General Dynamics is not the only company packing its board with former military and government officials. Former deputy undersecretary of defense Bob Work joined Raytheon’s board in 2017, and Nikki Haley, Trump’s former ambassador to the United Nations, joined Boeing’s board this year.
Big tech companies have benefited from the revolving door as well; Amazon recently hired Victor Gavin, the former deputy assistant secretary of the Navy, to assist with its cloud computing business. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau became the first leader to publicly say that his country’s intelligence officials had listened to an audio recording that Turkish officials say is evidence that the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed by Saudi operatives... “On October 24, a representative of the French intelligence has listened to the audio recording and detailed information including a transcript of said audio,” Fahrettin Altun, communications director of the Turkish presidency, told Agence France-Presse, according to Turkish officials. “If there is miscommunication between the French government’s various agencies, it is up to the French authorities, not Turkey, to take care of that problem.”.. Canada’s diplomatic relationship with Saudi Arabia has been strained since August, when Saudi Arabia downgraded ties between the two countries after Canada’s foreign ministry sent a tweet calling on the kingdom to immediately release human-rights activists who had been jailed. Saudi Arabia said it viewed the remarks, which were also translated into Arabic, as an unacceptable interference in its internal affairs. It expelled Canada’s ambassador to the kingdom and instructed thousands of Saudi students who were studying in Canada to leave the country.The diplomatic spat hasn’t affected a $10 billion deal, agreed to in 2014, to ship hundreds of armored vehicles from a Canadian subsidiary of General Dynamics Corp. to Saudi Arabia.
In fiscal year 2016, the Pentagon issued $304 billion in contract awards to corporations—nearly half of the department’s $600 billion-plus budget for that year.
the biggest beneficiaries by a country mile were
- Lockheed Martin ($36.2 billion),
- Boeing ($24.3 billion),
- Raytheon ($12.8 billion),
- General Dynamics ($12.7 billion), and
- Northrop Grumman ($10.7 billion).
Together, these five firms gobbled up nearly $100 billion of your tax dollars, about one-third of all the Pentagon’s contract awards in 2016.
Health care companies like
- Humana ($3.6 billion),
- UnitedHealth Group ($2.9 billion), and
- Health Net ($2.6 billion) cash in as well,
and they’re joined by, among others, pharmaceutical companies like
- McKesson ($2.7 billion) and
universities deeply involved in military-industrial complex research like
- MIT ($1 billion) and
- Johns Hopkins ($902 million).
.. The heads of the top five Pentagon contractors—Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman—made a cumulative $96 million last year.
These are companies that are significantly or, in the cases of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, almost entirely dependent on government dollars.
.. Donald Trump initially spent a fair amount of tweeting energy bragging about how he was going to bring such contractors to heel on their pricing practices for weapons systems. In fact, he’s already turned out to be good news indeed for major contractors, most of whom have seen sharp upturns in revenues and profits
.. Trump has proven eager to lift restrictions on U.S. weapons sales abroad (and enlist State Department and Pentagon officials to spend more of their time shilling such weaponry).
.. The arms industry’s investment in lobbying is even more impressive. The defense sector has spent a total of more than $1 billion on that productive activity since 2009, employing anywhere from 700 to 1,000 lobbyists in any given year.
.. you’re talking about significantly more than one lobbyist per member of Congress, the majority of whom zipped through Washington’s famed “revolving door”; they moved, that is, from positions in Congress or the Pentagon to posts at weapons companies from which they could proselytize their former colleagues.
.. Two analysts from U.S. war colleges have estimated that about 300 deliverable nuclear warheads would be enough to dissuade any nation from attacking the United States with a nuclear weapon.
.. And note that the current trillion-dollar “modernization” program for the nuclear arsenal was initiated under President Barack Obama, a man who won the Nobel Prize for his urge to abolish all such weaponry.
.. In 2011, a study by economists from the University of Massachusetts made this blindingly clear. What they showed was that military spending is the worst way to create jobs. Putting the same money into any other area—from infrastructure to transportation to alternative energy to healthcare or education—creates up to twice as many jobs as military spending does.
.. Contractors aid and abet the process of investing in the Pentagon by routinely exaggerating the number of jobs their programs create.
.. the best jobs generated by Pentagon spending are the ones for well-heeled lobbyists and overpaid corporate executives.
.. So the next time someone suggests that the Pentagon needs yet more money for the troops, just remember that what they’re actually talking about are troops of overpaid defense contractors, not members of the armed forces.