Report Cites MDA Chief for Verbal Abuse, Threats to Subordinates

by

WASHINGTON — The director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) berated, insulted and even threatened his staff in both public and private settings, behaving in a manner that is inconsistent with the standards expected of someone in his position, the Pentagon’s inspector general concluded in a report that was posted online July 3.

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, who has managed the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) missile defense development and testing program since November 2008, “failed to treat his subordinates with dignity and respect,” and many senior staffers left the agency as a result, according to the report, dated May 2. Other employees  were cautious about speaking up during meetings with him, according to the report.

The report recommended that the secretary of the Army take unspecified corrective action for O’Reilly, who disputed many of the allegations against him.

Army spokesman George Wright said July 5 that the Army secretary is reviewing the report but declined further comment. Army Lt. Col. James Gregory, an Office of the Secretary of Defense spokesman, declined to comment July 5.

The results of the inspector general’s investigation were first reported by Foreign Policy magazine’s The Cable blog.

O’Reilly and 37 witnesses — four of whom were added at his request — were interviewed during the investigation, according to the report, sections of which were redacted. The inspector general determined that O’Reilly failed to meet both DoD and Army standards for conduct.

“We determined that LTG O’Reilly’s behavior and leadership were inconsistent with these expectations,” the report states. “LTG O’Reilly failed to treat subordinates with dignity and respect, and failed to demonstrate the underlying leadership principles that inspire motivation, confidence, enthusiasm, and trust in subordinates, and foster a healthy command climate.”

The report outlines in graphic detail a host of complaints against O’Reilly including one that he demanded that a staff member use profanity to admit to a mistake. The incidents described in the report date back to as early as February 2009.

While some witnesses described O’Reilly as extremely intelligent and even “brilliant,” many stated that he was a poor leader, according to the report.

In a March 5 letter responding to the inspector general’s preliminary findings, and in interviews with investigators, O’Reilly did not deny that his behavior made some of his staff reluctant to provide feedback during meetings, the report said. But O’Reilly said he tried to have weekly meetings to give staffers an opportunity to communicate, and that he does not shout, but rather speaks loudly so as to be “clearly heard,” according to the report.

The report did not include a copy of O’Reilly’s letter.

O’Reilly also called into question the objectivity of the witnesses, the report said. The witnesses were not named in the report.

The report features descriptions of numerous alleged incidents including O’Reilly engaging in a 10-minute tirade, cursing at staff members, name calling and threatening to choke someone.

One witness described a Feb. 17, 2009, meeting in O’Reilly’s office where the MDA director “proceeded to curse me out and angrily, irrationally tell me how inept I was and that he could ‘[expletive] choke me.’”

O’Reilly also called a witness an “ignorant [expletive]” in a senior staff meeting that took place July 27, 2009, the report said.

O’Reilly denied that he screamed at, insulted, verbally abused or threatened anyone. He also said that staff members were not used to having their “work questioned,” the report said. 

The MDA has responsibility for developing, testing and delivering integrated land-, sea- and space-based capabilities for tracking and intercepting ballistic missiles of different types under a wide range of attack scenarios. The agency’s annual budget is nearly $10 billion.