To answer the title question, yes it can! There are several standard of conduct laws on the books that many military members (current, transitioning or retired) may not be aware of when thinking about entering the civilian job market. Some of these ethical violations can result in criminal charges ranging from probation, to fines, to serving hard time, depending on the severity of the infraction.

Because of a military position held before retiring, individuals may fall under certain employment bans or restrictions. Three of the common ones related to employment are:

  • Lifetime
  • Two-year
  • One-year

Lifetime employment restrictions

Under this restriction, former employees are prohibited from representing a contractor (or even a non-contractor) on a contract or some other matter related to a contract, that they worked on while in service to the government. The distinction contractor/non-contractor is made because some have used the defense that the person represented was not a contractor by definition. In the end, it doesn’t make a difference, as it is still a violation. This restriction not only applies to employees who had decision-making power on a contract, but also to those who gave advice or recommendations.

Two-year employment restrictions

The two-year ban is similar in nature to the lifetime except the person is prohibited from representing a contractor or non-contractor on a contract or some other matter related to a contract, which was pending under their responsibility in their last year of service.

One-year employment restrictions

Under the Procurement Integrity Act, a one-year employment restriction applies to employees who had decision-making authority on contracts over $10 million.

Is Transitional Leave still “on the job”?

Transitional leave occasionally raises a question as to whether one is still officially “on- the-job” or not, when it comes to representing a contractor during this period of time between serving and separation or retirement. Federal law explicitly denotes that military officers are not permitted to engage in representational contractual activities for a company seeking a contract with the government while on transition leave.

What about working for a foreign government?

As strange as it may seem, this is covered in the U.S. Constitution under the Emoluments Clause and applies to all retired military personnel. In essence, it says “employment of all retired military members, both officer and enlisted and both Regular and Reserve, by a foreign Government is prohibited unless a waiver is granted.”

The foreign employment in question also includes employment with educational institutions or corporations that are owned, operated, or controlled by a foreign government. However, some waivers are issued to allow the employment. Requests for waivers must be made in writing and approved by both the Secretary of your Military Branch and the Secretary of State.

If transitioning out of the military soon, and because there is not always a distinct “line drawn in the sand” regarding many of the employment situations encountered, it is always best to seek advice from your military branch’s’ ethics counselor before getting out or accepting employment, so you know the rules of civilian employment as it relates to your government service.


The information in these articles is general in nature. For more in-depth information, consult a qualified and experienced ethics counselor.

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Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.