About That Former MDA Director . . . .

| January 4, 2013 | 8 Comments

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.

Category: Military issues

Loading Facebook Comments ...

Comments (8)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. martinjmpr says:

    Wait, so he was an obnoxious asshole who used his privileged position to abuse his subordinates?

    Yeah, pretty much sounds like 90% of the generals I ever knew, read about, studied, or worked for (shrug.) Even the occasional “Humble” general like BG Lloyd (ADC-M for the 2nd ID when I was there in 91-92) eventually got forced into retirement because he was banging a subordinate’s wife.

    Military flag officers are the closest thing to royalty that we have in modern day America.

  2. Hondo says:

    martinjmpr: that’s one possibility. However, on reading the IG ROI another comes to mind: use of an inappropriate leadership style in an attempt to shake up/change a hidebound, civilian-dominated DoD agency.

    My guess was both factors were in play. How much of which? I wasn’t there, so I can’t say.

  3. Chuck Martel says:

    Never trust a flag officer or an O-6 who really, really, really wants to be a flag. They aren’t necessarily bad people. You just can’t trust them not to put their interests before anything else.

  4. Chip@NASA says:

    “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.”

    Can I pile on even further just to make a point? I think that the same (although take it with a grain because he was NO LTG O’Reilly,let me be clear on that)
    How about remarks about one H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Stormin Norman, or The Bear and his leadership style?
    ” rages against his senior commanders… abused and humiliated his staff, threatening to sack or court-martial his top commanders… from his bio ” Aboard a plane, Mr Cheney was shocked to see a colonel on his hands and knees ironing Gen Schwarzkopf’s uniform while a major held his place in a queue for the lavatory.” …also described as having a volcanic temper”.
    Don’t get me wrong, General Schwarzkopf was a god in my eyes BUT as has been said before, O-6 and above, be prepared to don kneepads and assume the position or incur the wrath.
    Says an old E-8. Just some food for thought. I’d have probably willingly been a bitch for the Bear had my career path gone that way.
    I think he was a tremendous guy.

  5. NHSparky says:

    a hidebound, civilian-dominated DoD agency.

    Which, IMO, is enough to try the patience of even Job.

  6. FatCircles0311 says:

    “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.”

    Damn. Here I thought this was the United States military. When did the United States military turn into vagina mouth breathers unable to cope with being “lifed” by higher? That sounds like a typical day in the Corps before 10am for any enlisted below SNCO rank.

    I bet Chesty Puller lifed at least a full battalion of Devil Dogs before he picked up Major. I wouldn’t expect anything different.

  7. Disgruntled Major says:

    I laughed and laughed reading the IG report. He threatened to come through the phone and choke someone? He told someone they were a dumb fuck and needed to get their shit together? That is just another day in most units! I wonder if I can get a copy of the extended report, to see if there is any better stuff like throat punching, skull fucking, swift kicks in the nuts, or stomping of mudholes in people’s asses. Otherwise, YAWN

  8. fubar says:

    We just received a briefing about using “foul language” while on duty. So, I got just outside the post gate, rolled down the window, and picked a random person entering post and called him a cock smoker. I feel better now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *