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.)
The crimes of Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen are notable not just for how blatant they were but also for their lack of sophistication. The two men did little to hide their lying to banks and the Internal Revenue Service. One can almost sympathize with them: If it wasn’t for their decision to attach themselves to the most unlikely president in modern history, there’s every reason to think they might still be working their frauds today.
- .. Are there legions of K Street big shots working for foreign despots and parking their riches in Cypriot bank accounts to avoid the I.R.S.?
- Are many political campaigns walking felonies waiting to be exposed?
- What about the world of luxury residential building in which Mr. Cohen plied his trade with the Trump Organization?
.. The answer is more disturbing than the questions: We don’t know. We don’t know because the cops aren’t on the beat. Resources have been stripped from white-collar enforcement.
.. The F.B.I. shifted agents to work on international terror in the wake of Sept. 11. White-collar cases made up about one-tenth of the Justice Department’s cases in recent years, compared with one-fifth in the early 1990s
The I.R.S.’s criminal enforcement capabilities have been decimated by years of budget cuts and attrition.
The Federal Election Commission is a toothless organization that is widely flouted.
.. How could they not? Any person in any bar in America can tell you who was held accountable for the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, which peaked 10 years ago next month: No one. No top officer from any major bank went to prison.
.. The Department of Justice — in Democratic as well as Republican administrations — has lost the will and ability to prosecute top executives across corporate America, at large industrial firms, tech giants, retailers, drugmakers and so on. Instead the Department of Justice reaches settlements with corporations, which pay in dollars instead of the liberty of their top officers and directors.
.. Robert Mueller, the special counsel, has fallen upon a rash of other crimes. In doing so, he has exposed how widespread and serious our white-collar-fraud problem really is, and how lax enforcement has been for years.
.. The Southern District of New York, to which Mr. Mueller referred the Cohen case, raided the offices of Mr. Cohen, President Trump’s former attorney, and fought for access to the materials, even as Mr. Cohen asserted attorney-client privilege. When federal prosecutors investigate large companies, out of custom and deference they rarely use such aggressive tactics. They place few wiretaps, conduct almost no undercover operations and do almost no raids. Instead government attorneys reach carefully negotiated agreements about which documents they can review, the product of many hours of discussion with high-powered law firms
.. The government has essentially privatized corporate law enforcement. The government effectively outsources the investigations to the companies themselves. The companies, typically trying to appear cooperative or to forestall government action, hire law firms to do internal investigations. Imagine if Mr. Mueller relied on Mr. Trump to investigate whether he colluded with the Russians or violated any other laws, and Mr. Trump hired Rudy Giuliani’s firm to do the inquiry.
.. Mr. Mueller isn’t looking to go soft to preserve his professional viability. I’m assuming that at age 74, he’s not going to go through the revolving door after this. That hasn’t been true for most top Justice Department officials in recent years. Many of them start out defending large corporations, and when they leave government they go back to the same work of defending large corporations.
Trump’s doghouse has a revolving door.
.. And what that means is that Trump has fired a whole series of former chiefs of staff and campaign managers – people like Corey Lewandowski, his first, Paul Manafort, his second, Reince Priebus, his chief of staff – but then continued to call them and take advice from them once they were on the outside. You know, and often these people kind of cycle back into his life.
So, you know, nobody has been quite as publicly, you know, excoriated and curb-stomped as Steve Bannon (laughter) has been by Donald Trump in that statement – not only in that statement but in getting him fired from Breitbart News and from SiriusXM Radio and essentially robbing him of his platform and his financial benefactor. Now, but having said all that, I could certainly envision a scenario where, you know, flash forward to November, and Republicans get slaughtered in the midterm elections, which is what polls seem to suggest is going to happen.
Well, Trump himself isn’t going to take the blame for a defeat. That’s not in his character. And he’ll look around for someone to blame. And pretty clearly the people he’s going to blame are the Republican establishment, people like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, you know, House Speaker Paul Ryan, who he has cozied up with over the last couple months because they’ve been able to deliver for him the historic corporate tax cut, you know, and other things. And I think Bannon thinks that if he just waits and bides his time, that Trump will eventually turn on the people close to him now as he tends to do.
Its offices lie just blocks from the White House on 1717 Pennsylvania Avenue, according to its website–the same building that is currently housing Mr. Trump’s transition team.
.. The launch of a new political consulting firm by top Trump allies clashes with Mr. Trump’s pledge during the campaign to “drain the swamp” in Washington of lobbyists and consultants. Since being elected, Mr. Trump has tapped several top donors and some recently deregistered lobbyists for his transition team and administration posts.
.. “What it will do is it will provide companies opportunities to get a fast answer from the federal government,” he said. “That doesn’t mean it’s the answer they want.”
He added: “Helping provide strategic counsel to companies to get a fast no is more beneficial to them than a long maybe.”
.. Increasingly in recent years, those who previously registered as lobbyists have avoided doing so, calling themselves consultants or advisers instead.