The most famous story about Carlucci involves a visit to President John F. Kennedy of Cyrille Adoula, the Congolese prime minister who succeeded Lumumba. As recounted by former Director of Central Intelligence James Schlesinger at a recent New York dinner of US business and labor leaders honoring the Carlyle chairman, the prime minister opened a meeting at the White House by asking, "Where is Carlucci?" Said Schlesinger: "This caused some consternation on the part of President Kennedy, who said 'Who the hell is Carlucci?'" JFK quickly dispatched Dean Rusk to find him, thus beginning Carlucci's rise as what Schlesinger called "an itinerant laborer of the executive branch."
Carlucci was brought into the Nixon Administration by Donald Rumsfeld, his roommate and wrestling partner at Princeton, and quickly make his way into senior positions at the Office of Economic Opportunity (where he worked with Dick Cheney), the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (where he was mentored by Caspar Weinberger) and the White House Office of Management and Budget (where he hired an up-and-coming Army officer named Colin Powell). In the mid-1970s Carlucci was ambassador to Portugal, at a time of revolutionary ferment that led to the dismantling of the country's empire in Asia and Africa. Carlucci, following long-established CIA practice of working with the left when it was convenient, decided to back a faction of moderate socialists after a group of pro-Communist military officers seized power in Lisbon. Back home, recalled Schlesinger, "I had to listen to Henry Kissinger suggesting that Carlucci was giving away Portugal to the Communists."
Carlucci's background as an intelligence operative came to public light in 1977, when Carter appointed him to the number-two spot at the CIA. His work for a Democratic administration led some conservatives to question Carlucci's credentials when he was appointed Weinberger's deputy at the Pentagon in 1981. But Carlucci's record in reforming the Pentagon's procurement process and his use of lie detectors to crack down on leakers erased any doubts about the CIA man from Princeton.
In 1982 Carlucci left the Pentagon to run Sears World Trade, which was designed to replicate a Japanese-style trading company. Fortune, citing international traders, speculated that SWT "was providing cover jobs for US intelligence operations," an accusation that gained credence when the Washington Post revealed that SWT operated a secret subsidiary that advised US and foreign companies on selling arms overseas (Carlucci denied the story). SWT went bankrupt in 1986, but Carlucci walked away with a $735,722 termination settlement.
Since leaving government, Carlucci has spent much of his time as a director for the most powerful multinational corporations in North America, including General Dynamics, Westinghouse Electric, Bell Atlantic, Nortel, Quaker Oats, CB Commercial Real Estate Group and BDM International, a military consulting company with extensive operations in Saudi Arabia that Carlyle sold to TRW in 1998.
Carlucci is currently chairman of the board of Neurogen, the Connecticut pharmaceutical giant, and Infraworks, an Austin, Texas, company that sells e-mail software to intelligence agencies and the private sector (the e-mail disappears after a second reading). In addition, Carlucci is a member of corporate boards at United Defense, Ashland, Kaman (another big military contractor), Pharmacia (which was created by a merger between Monsanto and Pharmacia-Upjohn), Texas Biotechnology and Sun Resorts, a South African hotel chain based in Mauritius.