Warren-backed amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to defense bill

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
Greg Nash

Pentagon officials would have to recuse themselves from decisions involving their former employers for four years under an amendment approved as part of the annual defense policy bill.

The law right now requires Pentagon officials to recuse themselves from decisions involving former employers for two years.

But Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) announced Friday the Senate Armed Services Committee agreed to her amendment to increase the recusal period during its closed-door consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) earlier this week.

“I was glad to see a bipartisan group of my Senate Armed Services Committee colleagues approve my plan to toughen up ethics standards at the Pentagon,” Warren said in a statement. “In the future, when defense officials want to spin through the revolving door between industry and government, they’ll be banned from working on issues pertaining to their former employer, clients, or competitors for four years instead of two.”

The amendment must still survive votes on the Senate floor and negotiations with the House before becoming law.

But it’s inclusion comes after Warren has been pushing Pentagon nominees to go beyond the current legal requirement for recusals.

Under Warren’s questioning at his confirmation hearing, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin agreed to recuse himself for the entirety of his tenure from decisions involving Raytheon Technologies, where he sat on the board of directors before becoming Pentagon chief.

Warren also recently secured similar commitments from Air Force Secretary nominee Frank Kendall and Heidi Shyu, who was recently confirmed as under secretary of Defense for research and engineering after Warren lifted a hold she placed on Shyu until getting that commitment.

While Warren’s recusal amendment made it into the NDAA, Warren’s office had said before the committee’s markup of the bill that she would push for far broader ethics reforms, such as banning Pentagon officials from working for defense contractors for four years after they leave the department.

On Friday, Warren vowed to continue “fighting until all of the stronger ethics standards in my Department of Defense Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act are made into law.”

Tags Elizabeth Warren Lloyd Austin
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