Updated (8:00 am EST): Former CIA director David Petraeus is reportedly close to a gig with private-equity firm KKR. It’s likely the former Army general will soon be making a lot more money than he made during his decorated public service career, which came to an early end because of an extramarital affair. If he joins KKR, he’ll juggle that with teaching positions at University of Southern California and the City University of New York.
Those are just two possible paths that retired generals and admirals can take after active duty. Top officers do CEO-size jobs, although the military pays them like junior execs. But their experience and contacts can earn them far more in civilian life. Petraeus may take on several of the jobs that have provided lucrative second acts for generals before him. Here are four possibilities:
Companies that thrive on multi-billion dollar government contracts covet top officers for their connections to decision makers and their insight into what bids win, for products as glamorous as fighter aircraft to those as boring as backpacks. Even in the age of shrinking budgets and sequestration, the military is still a huge customer, and winning a big contract can make a company’s year. Retired officers who help bring them in can share in the profits.
Companies pay good money to former flag officers for advice on management and organization. Retired generals can start their own boutique consultancies or sign on with existing management consulting firms. They can also pad their income on the corporate motivational speaking circuit.
Four-star generals Norman Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell both wrote best-selling autobiographies. Petraeus could do the same, and he is getting advice from Washington super-lawyer Robert Barnett, a specialist in landing book deals for the political elite. (His long client list includes various Clintons and Bushes.) A Petraeus memoir that goes into detail about the scandal could fetch a nice advance, but the former general -- and his family -- may decide not to relive his downfall.
TV Military Analysis
During the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts, retired generals put in long hours and earned decent money breaking down the battles for viewers. Network military analyst gigs don’t all pay well and are less frequent in peacetime. But they provide valuable exposure and credibility, which can lead to new consulting opportunities, higher speaking fees and increased book sales.