Former Air Force Chief Joins One of the World's Largest Equity Firms

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Retired Gen. David L. Goldfein, 21st Air Force chief of staff
Retired Gen. David L. Goldfein, 21st Air Force chief of staff, delivers remarks during a transition ceremony at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Aug. 14, 2020. (Eric Dietrich/U.S. Air Force)

The former top leader of the U.S. Air Force has joined one of the world's largest private equity and investment firms, The Blackstone Group, Military.com has learned.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, who retired in August, was named a senior adviser to the New York-based management firm, where he will consult on a wide range of industries, he said in an interview.

"The natural tendency for guys like me is to ... sign on with the board of the Lockheed [Martins] or the Boeings or one of the big defense [companies] because that's where the network is," Goldfein said in a phone interview Tuesday with Military.com and DefenseOne. "I wanted to go a different route. I wanted to try to do something [else], to stretch a little bit more professionally and personally into something a little non-defense, non-national security."

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Following their years of service in the Pentagon, top officials often join the boards of some of America's largest defense and aerospace companies. Some, however, choose the investment firm route. James Stavridis, a retired admiral and former NATO supreme allied commander, joined the Carlyle Group in 2018. David Petraeus, the former Army general and CIA director, became chairman of the KKR Global Institute in 2013.

Lawmakers have described the relationship as a "revolving door" of senior government officials springboarding into their next endeavor in the defense world. As Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., put it in an Op-Ed in 2019, their hiring signifies "an intense coziness between giant defense corporations and our Department of Defense."

When asked whether he was dissuaded by the perception of the "revolving door" for his next venture, Goldfein said he kept his options open but his interests were to move outside of defense-specific business.

"The initial outreach to me was from the defense network," he said. "And [while] I was quick [in my] responses, I was slow to sign up for anything.

"It's a very personal decision," Goldfein added. "I have no criticisms for those who take their 30 to 40 years of expertise and national defense, and then apply that to ... producing the things that warfighters need."

In a release, Blackstone said Goldfein will be instrumental in advancing the employment and professional development of veterans and military families within the firm.

Goldfein said he hopes to help Blackstone make strategic decisions from a big-picture standpoint.

"I think I'm the guy in the room that hopefully can look at the risks and the trades and say, 'OK, well, from a global perspective, here's some things you want to think about,'" he said.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

Related: Goldfein Departs: On a Future Bomber, Female Pilots and Surviving a Shootdown

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