Employment Law

Responsibilities and Restrictions After Military Retirement

There are certain ethical and legal restrictions on military retirees seeking employment in the civilian sector. As you embark on your civilian career, you need to be aware of your continuing responsibilities as a retiree from federal government service.

What Legal Restrictions on Future Employment May Apply? 

Title 18 United States Code, Section 207 sets out legally binding post-employment restrictions on those retiring from military service or from federal government employment. These restrictions probably apply more to retiring officers than enlisted personnel, but in some instances, high ranking NCO’s may face these same issues.

  • You cannot make a formal or an informal appearance on behalf of any employer with the intent to influence a representative of any U.S. government department or service relating to any particular matter involving specific parties that you were previously involved with on the issue.
    • Example: Your job in the military was to decide what brand of engine oil to buy for the motor pool. If you take a job with one of the oil companies after retirement, you cannot be the sales representative contacting your old co-workers to sell your brand of engine oil to the military.
  • For a period of 2 years after your retirement, the following restriction applies to preclude you from actions that were pending at the time you were in the military that were part of your responsibility. You cannot make either a formal or an informal appearance before any government agency or department or contact people you know who are still in the service to influence them on any topic that was part of your responsibility when you were in the military.
    • Example: You were a Navy officer responsible for working with a civilian company on a missile guidance system for submarines. You are now retired and employed with that same civilian company. Recent allegations have arisen that the guidance system is susceptible to hacking by foreign powers. You cannot go before a Congressional committee and testify to the safety of your company’s guidance system.
  • For a period of one year after you complete your military responsibilities, any civil servant or military officer who participated in treaty or trade negotiations may not knowingly aid or advise anyone concerning such ongoing treaty or trade negotiations.

If your new civilian job requires you to represent your employer in communicating with the government about things you did in the military, think twice. If you are unsure whether you are on solid ground, contact the ethics counselor with your branch of the military or contact a JAG officer at the nearest military legal office.

Senior military officers and Flag Officers have additional restrictions like the one year “cooling off period.” During the first year following separation, they are prohibited from seeking any official action on the part of the government on behalf of a third party. When a violation occurs, authorities look at the specific facts and circumstances of each case to decide if the violation rises to the level of a criminal act.

Working for a Foreign Government 

Another prohibition for military retirees is working for a foreign government. The Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution requires authorization by Congress before any retired federal employee or any retired member of the U.S. Armed Forces can accept a paycheck from a foreign country. The Emoluments Clause is intended to prevent officials of the U.S. government from falling prey to foreign influence. The penalty for violating the Emoluments Clause is losing your military retirement during the period of the violation.

Over the years, Congress has delegated its responsibility for approval of foreign employment. If you are retired military, you are required to obtain permission for the employment from the secretary of your service (Secretary of the Navy, Army, Air Force, etc.) and from the Secretary of State.

The Emoluments Clause affects retired enlisted personnel and officers alike.

Example: A retired Air Force NCO who worked as a jet mechanic gets a job offer from Qatar Airlines to be a mechanic and work on commercial jetliners at an airport here in the U.S. Does the retired NCO need permission to take the job? Yes, they do.

What are the Responsibilities of All Military Retirees? 

As retired military personnel, you have certain obligations and responsibilities. You are expected to do the following:

  • Avoid any conflicts of interest by complying with federal employment restrictions and following reporting requirements when a conflict of interest is identified.
  • Before accepting any sort of employment from a foreign government, whether a temporary assignment or a permanent job, make sure you get approval.
  • Keep your ID card and your family members’ ID cards current.
  • Register your family in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). It is the retiree’s responsibility to register his or her dependents in DEERS. Without registration, family members will not be eligible for Tricare and other benefits.
  • Make sure you promptly notify the Accounting and Finance Center for your branch of the service about changes in marital status, address changes, or any other change that could affect your Survivors’ Benefit Plan.
  • Educate your spouse about the location of all your military and family records and about how to contact the nearest casualty assistance office in the event of your death.
  • Only wear your uniform in compliance with official uniform directives.

For those of you planning to retire in the next few years and for those already retired, stay current with changes in reporting requirements and ask your local ethics counsel if you are unsure about any employer expectations that involve you interacting with the government.



This website has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information on this website is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state-to-state or county-to-county, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your situation. Finally, the information contained on this website is not guaranteed to be up to date. Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.

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