Retired Gen. David Goldfein speaks at a transition ceremony in August. Goldfein joined Blackstone earlier this month.

Retired Gen. David Goldfein speaks at a transition ceremony in August. Goldfein joined Blackstone earlier this month. Eric Dietrich/USAF

Former Air Force Chief Goldfein Joins Blackstone

The retired general picked the investment firm over opportunities at defense companies.

Dave Goldfein has joined New York investment firm Blackstone as a senior advisor, the retired Air Force general said this week.

Goldfein, a former fighter pilot who retired as the Air Force’s top general in August, will advise the firm’s leaders on strategic and investment decisions and the hiring of more veterans throughout Blackstone’s portfolio companies.

“I don't think I'll ever be the guy at the table to look at a spreadsheet and know what I'm looking at,” Goldfein said in an interview with Defense One and “I'm the guy in the room that hopefully can look at the risks and the trades and, and say, ‘OK, from a global perspective, here's some things you want to think about.’”

Blackstone owns or manages nearly $600 billion in assets across a range of industries, including tech, hospitality and real estate.

“Dave exemplifies the global perspective and strategic thinking that are a core part of Blackstone’s culture,” Wayne Berman, the firm’s global head of government affairs, said in an emailed statement. “We look forward to benefiting from his judgement and experience across our firm, portfolio companies and partners around the world as a senior advisor.”  

Shortly after retiring, Goldfein said he was approached by a number of defense firms about potential employment, a common route for retired military brass. While weighing his options and focusing on being a full-time grandpa, he was approached by Blackstone.

“I was...slow to sign up for anything until I got a sense of what the landscape looked like,” he said. “Of all the things that were presented, Blackstone was the most intriguing.”

While he’ll continue most of his time in San Antonio, Texas, during the pandemic, Goldfein said he eventually plans to spend more time in New York.

“I think I have a lot to offer, but I have a lot to learn about the business of private equity and how to be a value added as a senior advisor,” he said. “And I do my best work when I'm face to face.”

In signing on with an investment firm, Goldfein follows a path trod by retired admiral James Stavridis to The Carlyle Group and David Petraeus, the retired Army general who is a partner at KKR.

Goldfein said he has no issues with retired military leaders going to work in the defense industry, but he was looking “to stretch a little bit more professionally and personally” outside of the national security space.

“I have no criticisms for those who take their 30 to 40 years of expertise in national defense and then apply that to making the kinds of things that and producing the things that warfighters need,” he said. “We need really good people on the boards with good ethics that are doing the right work. It just wasn't where I wanted to go.”

The so-called revolving door — retired military officers going to work for defense companies, or defense executives coming to work in top positions — has been heavily criticized by some progressive lawmakers. The argument is getting a new airing on Capitol Hill as lawmakers debate a waiver to allow , a retired Army general who is now a board member at defense contractor Raytheon Technologies, to become Joe Biden’s defense secretary.