Bloomberg News

Missile Agency Head Faulted for Leadership Cited Morale

July 09, 2012

The three-star general who heads the U.S. Missile Defense Agency told a House defense panel that his agency’s morale was “significantly higher” than average even as the Pentagon’s inspector general found he had created an “unhealthy command climate” by yelling at subordinates.

The inspector general recommended that Army Secretary John McHugh consider taking “appropriate corrective action” against agency director Lieutenant General Patrick O’Reilly, because he “engaged in a leadership style that was inconsistent” with military ethics regulations, according to a report by the watchdog office dated May 2 and released last week.

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

Reilly portrayed a different atmosphere under his leadership in agency charts sent to the House Armed Services strategic forces panel on May 30. The agency 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.

The agency ranked No. 32 of 154 governmentwide among most- improved U.S. agencies in fiscal 2011, Reilly said in a statement. “This improvement in morale was achieved despite” the displacement of more than 75 percent of its Washington area workforce because of base-closing requirements, O’Reilly wrote in remarks intended to complete the record of a March hearing.

Lockheed, Raytheon

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. (BA:US), Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT:US), Raytheon Co. (RTN:US), Northrop Grumman Corp. (NOC:US) and Orbital Sciences Corp. (ORB:US) The Pentagon is seeking $7.7 billion for the agency in fiscal 2013.

Army spokesman George Wright said McHugh “has received and is currently reviewing the report” from the inspector general and “any further comment at this time would be inappropriate.”

Representative Michael Turner, an Ohio Republican who is chairman of the defense panel, said in an e-mailed statement “there’s a clear disparity between this report and Lt. Gen. O’Reilly’s representations to the Committee.

‘‘The MDA is a key agency to the defense of the homeland, and anything other than superior leadership and morale is unacceptable,” he said.

Yelling, Screaming

The inspector general said “multiple witnesses testified that LTG O’Reilly yelled and screamed at subordinates in both public and private settings, such as video teleconferences and staff meetings.”

Although one employee told investigators O’Reilly’s approach “helped ensure people were prepared and had their facts straight” during meetings, his style in the long-term “was detrimental because staff could not withstand that type of pressure for long periods,” the inspector general’s investigators were told.

The report was obtained by Foreign Policy magazine under the Freedom of Information Act and posted by the inspector general on its website.

Resort Incident

One witness quoted in the report cited a February 2010 incident at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort in Tucson, Arizona, where O’Reilly yelled at employee for making reservations at a resort out of concern about conveying the impression the agency spent lavishly on travel.

“The yelling was so distracting that the witness thought hotel security would be called,” according to the 22-page inspector general’s report signed by Marguerite Garrison, deputy for administrative investigations.

O’Reilly told the inspector general’s investigators he apologized to the employee and to a supervisor who witnessed the incident.

In comments contained in the inspector general’s report, O’Reilly disputed its findings, questioning the objectivity and accuracy of witness testimony and denying that he engaged in many of the practices described.

O’Reilly, who served in the agency since the mid-1990s including as manager for the ground-based defensive system, became director in November 2008, a position that previous directors held for about four years.

O’Reilly has no comment on the difference in assessments, according to his spokesman, Richard Lehner.

Asked if O’Reilly would retire in November, Lehner said, “There is no retirement schedule for general and flag officers. They all serve at the pleasure of the President and the Secretary of Defense.”

‘Job Satisfaction’

In the submission to a House Armed Services Committee panel, O’Reilly said employees showed “overall job satisfaction” in the survey.

“In key areas -- overall satisfaction, training, salary, ethical conduct diversity and equal employment opportunity, MDA was 7 to 14 percentage points above the governmentwide average,” O’Reilly wrote in his message.

According to the briefing charts, 86 percent of respondents said their leaders treated them with respect and 80 percent responded that “cooperation is high between employees.”

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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