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Admiral Named to Take Command of Missile Defense Agency

The White House has tapped a Navy admiral to be the first sailor to head the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

If the Senate approves, Rear Admiral James Syring will replace the current director, U.S. Army Lieutenant General Patrick O’Reilly, whose abusive behavior toward subordinates has hurt morale at the agency, according to a May 2 report by the Pentagon Inspector General.

“Witnesses testified that O’Reilly’s leadership style resulted in a command climate of fear and low morale,” the inspector general found.

Syring has been nominated for promotion to vice admiral “while serving as director of the Missile Defense Agency,” R.S. Erskine, the director of management in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, wrote in a letter delivered Friday to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The Senate panel will review the nomination next month when the Senate returns from its August recess, and Syring then must be approved by the full Senate.

Syring, 48, is currently Program Executive Office for Naval Integrated Warfare Systems. He would be the first naval officer to head the Missile Defense Agency

The MDA is responsible for developing, fielding and upgrading the nation’s ground- and sea-based missile defense programs, working with Japan and Israel, among other nations. Its top contractors are Chicago-based Boeing Co.; Lockheed Martin Corp., based in Bethesda, Maryland; Raytheon Co. of Waltham, Massachusetts; Falls Church, Virgina-based Northrop Grumman Corp.; and Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Virginia. The Pentagon is seeking $7.7 billion for the agency in fiscal 2013.

Spokesman Unaware

MDA spokesman Richard Lehner in an e-mail statement today said he had no comment and wasn’t aware of the announcement tapping Syring to head the agency.

Separately, Army Secretary John McHugh last month asked the Pentagon inspector general to investigate whether O’Reilly misled Congress in the continuing dispute over his leadership of the Missile Defense Agency.

McHugh asked that Acting Inspector General Lynne Halbrooks review a lawmaker’s concerns that O’Reilly attempted to “misdirect” a congressional oversight panel that asked him to assess his agency’s morale.

In a July 27 memo, the MDA’s executive director, John James, Jr., warned its employees and contractors to stop using their government computers to surf the Internet for pornographic sites.

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