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Lawmaker Presses Army to Punish Missile Defense Chief

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Oct. 2 (Bloomberg) -- The Army should punish the three-star general who heads the U.S. Missile Defense Agency before he retires because of his abusive treatment of his staff, a Republican lawmaker said.

Lieutenant General Patrick O’Reilly will retire this year after 38 years of Army service, including four as a West Point cadet, although the date for a retirement ceremony hasn’t been set, according to agency spokesman Richard Lehner. President Barack Obama has nominated Navy Rear Admiral James Syring to replace him.

O’Reilly’s treatment of subordinates hurt the agency, according to a May 2 report by the Pentagon’s inspector general that said witnesses testified his “leadership style resulted in a command climate of fear and low morale.”

Before O’Reilly leaves, the “focus must now turn back to how to resolve” the inspector general’s conclusions about O’Reilly and the “damage he did while head of the agency,” Representative Michael Turner, an Ohio Republican, wrote in a letter dated Sept. 21 to Army Secretary John McHugh.

The Missile Defense Agency is responsible for developing, fielding and upgrading the nation’s ground- and sea-based missile defense programs. Its top contractors are Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp., Raytheon Co., Northrop Grumman Corp. and Orbital Sciences Corp. The Pentagon is seeking $7.7 billion for the agency in fiscal 2013.

Turner heads the House Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces subcommittee, which oversees the agency.

Message Sent

“I am deeply concerned that if no disciplinary action is taken -- for example, Lt. Gen. O’Reilly is allowed to retire at current rank -- the message that will be sent throughout the Army, and at MDA” is that the Pentagon “and the most senior Army leadership saw nothing wrong with his conduct,” Turner wrote. “I do not believe you intend to send that message.”

Army spokesman George Wright said in an e-mailed statement that “a final decision regarding Lt. Gen. O’Reilly’s retired grade has not been rendered.”

Reilly has defended his leadership of the Missile Defense Agency. A presentation he sent to Turner’s panel on May 30 said his office had “significantly higher satisfaction scores than the rest of federal government in training, salary, ethical conduct and diversity,” according to the summary of an employee survey sponsored last year by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Demoting O’Reilly from three-star to two-star status would be a career embarrassment and reduce his retirement pay.

The law requires that in order to retire at the three- and four-star level the secretary of defense must certify to Congress that “the officer has served on active duty satisfactorily in that grade,” Wright said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tony Capaccio in Washington at acapaccio@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at jwalcott9@bloomberg.net

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