LTG Patrick O’Reilly, former director of the Missile Defense Agency, received a Christmas present this holiday season. The SECDEF determined that O’Reilly had “served successfully” as a Lieutenant General – thus allowing O’Reilly to retire at that grade.
I’ve previously written that O’Reilly was not exactly the best “boss” in the world. He was allegedly abusive, and yelled at subordinates in public and private settings. The DoD IG investigated O’Reilly and substantiated these facts. Yet there appears to have been no clearly criminal behavior on O’Reilly’s part. The DoD IG Report of Investigation (ROI) on O’Reilly can be found here; read it yourself if you like. It’s fairly short, and very little is redacted.
When I wrote my earlier article linked above, I was convinced LTG O’Reilly was an abusive jerk who fully deserved to be relieved of duty. After locating and reading the DoD IG ROI, I’m still convinced of that – but it’s also not exactly the “slam-dunk” case I expected.
Effectively all the DoD IG ROI says is that O’Reilly’s leadership style was very poor – e.g., that he chewed ass in public (sometimes profanely) , he sometimes was overly critical of subordinates; and he didn’t take bad news well. That’s about it. No other misconduct is alleged or substantiated. Its conclusions, quoted verbatim, are: “LTG O’Reilly engaged in a leadership style that was inconsistent with the JER and AR 600-100.” I also see nothing in the DoD IG ROI I haven’t seen – though admittedly on a much smaller scale – in numerous otherwise excellent leaders.
Leadership styles vary; what’s appropriate in one environment may not be appropriate in another. The same criticisms levied against O’Reilly in the DoD IG ROI can also be accurately applied to an individual named George S. Patton, Jr., between 1942 and 1945. Or to a guy named Curtis LeMay pretty much anytime between 1945 and 1965.
In short: I think the SECDEF got this one right. O’Reilly apparently was the wrong choice to lead MDA and needed to go; the SECDEF was IMO correct in replacing him. I don’t really “get” how O’Reilly ended up with 1 star, much less 3. He appears to have been the proverbial “boss from hell”; in my experience, such behavior doesn’t develop overnight. He simply doesn’t seem to have the leadership ability one would expect in a General/Flag Officer.
But being pleasant or even a good leader isn’t the regulatory criteria for determining retired grade; serving successfully at a particular grade is. And it does appear that LTG O’Reilly served successfully – though not pleasantly or with distinction – for the requisite amount of time before being removed as MDA Director. So based on what’s contained in the DoD IG ROI I don’t see how the SECDEF had much choice but to allow O’Reilly to retire at his final grade. There simply doesn’t seem to be evidence of anything but an inappropriate leadership style.
YMMV, though. And I’d be interested in hearing what others have to say on the matter.