Gen. Paul X. Kelley is looking for a few good men, but these days he'd prefer computer analysts to prospective Marines.
Kelley, who retired as Marine Corps commandant June 30, last week became senior vice president and director of corporate development at a new Alexandria high-technology consulting company called Star Mountain Inc.
His job is to help develop a business plan and to recruit people for the computer services firm, which is to specialize in applying high-technology systems to the management decision-making process.
For Kelley, who spent 37 years in the military, the shift to the private sector has meant a radical change. These days, his crisp uniform has been replaced with a cardigan sweater. The bureaucratic and disciplined world of the military has been replaced with the free-wheeling entrepreneurial atmosphere of a high-tech business.
But Kelley, 59, minimizes the importance of the differences. He figures that running the Marine Corps, with its budget of more than $10 billion a year and its complex personnel and policy decisions, is not unlike running a major corporation. He also figures that creating the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force in 1980 was good training for starting a new company.
"I think when you retire you can go one of two ways," he said. "You can hang on around the periphery of the national security establishment and attend all the seminars and forums and all the things that people do. Or you can branch off into a very different life.
"My view has always been that when you walk away from an establishment, you should leave it to those who have replaced you to run it. I've never been one to hang around and proffer unsolicited advice to anybody about anything. Make clean breaks, walk away and let them have their chance. That makes sense to me," Kelley said.
It was the National Football League strike this fall that led Kelley to his second career.
Former Redskin John Riggins was asked if he would try his hand at mediating the strike, and he brought in Kelley, a longtime friend, to help. Though the attempt was unsuccessful, Kelley got to know Riggins' attorney, Joel Kaswell, of Fisher, Wayland, Cooper and Leaders.
"We had had some discussions on what I was going to do," Kelley said. "I indicated at the time that I would like to get into something creative, that old generals seem to fade away and rest on their laurels, but that I was too young to do that."
So in early October, Kaswell introduced Kelley to one of his clients, Carl von Sternberg, founder and chairman of The Allen Corp. of America, a high-tech company he sold to Singer Co. in 1986 for $20 million.
Von Sternberg was in the process of starting another company, which he called Star Mountain (the English translation of Sternberg), and decided to bring Kelley into the firm. So far, Star Mountain's staff consists of the two executives, plus an office manager, but two computer analysts are to join the firm next month. The company then hopes to begin getting clients, according to Kelley.
"We're still in the formulation stage," he said.
Kelley said he does not expect Star Mountain to concentrate on federal government contracts, despite his background and the company's Washington area location. He added that he is restricting himself from getting involved in Defense Department contracts.
Kelley has made other forays into the business world. Since retiring, he has joined the board of directors of three companies: Allied Signal Inc., the New Jersey-based conglomerate; PHH Group Inc. of Baltimore; and Security First Trust, a California bank.
Kelley, who presided over the Marine Corps during a stormy period that included the 1983 bombing of a Beirut barracks in which 241 Marines died and the controversy over Marine guards at the U.S. embassy in Moscow, said he has been too busy to think about his former life.
"Still," he said, "you can't do 37 years of your life in the miliary and not miss it."