For decades, corporations have used taxpayer-funded fellowship opportunities to help them secure billion-dollar defense contracts.

By Freddy Brewster, The Lever

For nearly three decades, the Department of Defense has used taxpayer money to send elite military officers to work for some of the Pentagon’s top private contractors. The public-private arrangement has allowed corporate lobbying disguised as policy recommendations to reach the highest branches of the Defense Department, according to an exclusive report from the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft shared with The Lever.

Raytheon Technologies exhibitor pavilion at Dubai Airshow 2021 exhibiting the American aerospace and defense company's latest technological innovations.

From 1995 to 2021, more than 315 military officers with elite ranks as high as colonel and rear admiral have been placed at top weapons manufacturers such as Boeing, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin, as well as other companies with billion-dollar government contracts. The arrangement has also coincided with a dramatic rise in Defense Department spending on private contractors valued in the trillions of dollars.

The arrangement, called the Secretary of Defense Executive Fellows program, sends officers with promising military careers to work for top corporations in the defense, tech, finance, and other industries for one year. These fellows then report on how the Defense Department could incorporate some of these companies’ business practices and policies. The program has helped place corporate interests at the very heart of U.S. military strategy.

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