If you’re a general unhappy with your measly six-figure salary, just retire; the Pentagon will pay you millions to come back and consult, even if you’re also drawing a paycheck from a defense contractor. At least 158 retired admirals and generals are now on the Pentagon payroll as “senior mentors,” making $200 to $340 an hour—and 80% of them have financial ties to, and in some cases, better-paying gigs with, defense contractors as well, according to a USA Today investigation.
As outside consultants, the retirees aren’t subject to government ethics rules, meaning they needn’t tell the Pentagon or anyone else who they’re working for. “This setup invites abuse,” says one contracting expert. “Everyone in this story is fat and happy. Everyone, of course, except the public.” One Marine general acknowledges that the mentors probably use their inside edge to help their companies, but says it’s unavoidable, unless the military wants to hire “amateurs.”