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3-star bullied, berated soldiers, report shows

Jul. 9, 2012 - 07:46AM   |   Last Updated: Jul. 9, 2012 - 07:46AM  |  
Witnesses describe Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, director of the Missile Defense Agency, as brilliant. But his interpersonal skills are caustic, many said in an IG report.
Witnesses describe Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, director of the Missile Defense Agency, as brilliant. But his interpersonal skills are caustic, many said in an IG report. (Getty Images)
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The three-star general in charge of the Missile Defense Agency would go ballistic on subordinates, bullying and harassing them, and he mismanaged his office, according to a recent Defense Department report.

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The three-star general in charge of the Missile Defense Agency would go ballistic on subordinates, bullying and harassing them, and he mismanaged his office, according to a recent Defense Department report.

Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly "engaged in a leadership style that was inconsistent with standards of senior Army leaders" and a violation of military regulations, according to an investigation and report by the Defense Department's Inspector General's office. The investigation was completed in May and recently made public.

O'Reilly, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, has worked in missile defense for more than a decade, including two years as the agency's deputy director. Since November 2008, O'Reilly has headed the organization, which received $8.4 billion in fiscal 2012 and is responsible for developing, testing and fielding layered defenses against ballistic missiles.

O'Reilly, according to the 21-page report, yelled at subordinates in public and private, demeaned and belittled employees, and behaved so poorly that six employees quit, the report states.

Describing one of the many incidents in the report, a senior official testified O'Reilly told him over the phone, "If I could get my hands through the phone right now, I'd choke your f---ing throat."

The report found that O'Reilly's leadership style was "inconsistent" with Defense Department 5500.7-R, the "Joint Ethics Regulation," and Army Regulation 600-100, "Army Leadership," saying he failed to treat his subordinates with dignity and respect.

The report, obtained and first reported by Foreign Policy's blog "The Cable," recommends Army Secretary John McHugh consider "appropriate corrective action."

According to Richard Lehner, a spokesman for the Missile Defense Agency, O'Reilly remains the director of the agency, and his status is unchanged. Lehner said O'Reilly had no comment or statement in response to the release of the report.

George Wright, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, said in an email that McHugh had yet to make a decision in the case.

"The Secretary has received and is currently reviewing the DODIG's report," Wright said. He declined further comment.

The report included a summary of O'Reilly's response to its preliminary conclusions. O'Reilly, according to the report, disputed its conclusions, questioning the accuracy and objectivity of witnesses. He requested four more witnesses be interviewed, but their statements did not change the report's conclusions.

He told inspectors in a letter that the findings were inconsistent with his 33-year record of effective leadership.

O'Reilly, in the report, attributed the negative perceptions to a series of unpopular decisions he had made. He said closures led much of his staff to move involuntarily or resign. He also said he sought to eliminate 1,300 contractor positions to cut costs, and he canceled several major projects.

Investigators interviewed 37 witnesses, the majority of whom testified O'Reilly was brilliant, the report said, and by several accounts performed well in a challenging job.

However, his interpersonal skills were by many accounts sharp-edged and caustic. One witness said of him, "As leader, as a director, whatever, he's the worst."

He was described by a witness as "condescending, sarcastic, abusive." It was "management by blowtorch and pliers," the witness said.

Another witness described his personality as "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," saying he played up to those senior to him while abusing his subordinates.

A senior official used the term "The Beaten Wife Syndrome" to describe the situation wherein O'Reilly would "berate you, make you feel like you're the dirt beneath his feet," then pay a compliment to rebuild the employee, and later repeat the cycle.

In one incident, O'Reilly berated one of his employees in a hotel corridor for five to 10 minutes because the person had arranged lodging at a hotel which had the word "resort" in its name. O'Reilly believed it would look bad if it became public that members of the agency had stayed at a resort.

He demanded the employee admit to the mistake, shouting, "‘You f---ed up, you tell me you f---ed, you admit you f---ed up."

The witness does not use profanity, according to testimony but was forced to state, "I f---ed up."

By the employee's account, O'Reilly never apologized for the incident but later thanked the employee with a "director's coin."

Witnesses also described O'Reilly as loudly berating senior staff members in public and private, attacking them on a personal rather than professional level.

O'Reilly is said to have berated an Army colonel for a typographical error on a chart. He "just shredded the fellow in front of this audience of about 200 folks," said one witness, adding O'Reilly "denigrated employees, saying, ‘You're doing the country a disservice. You don't know what you're talking about. You're unethical.' "

One senior official noted four instances in 2009 in which O'Reilly's behavior was abusive. O'Reilly "proceeded to curse me out and angrily, irrationally tell me how inept I was and that he could ‘f---ing choke me.' "

Other times, the witness said O'Reilly called him a "dumb f---" and in separate senior staff meetings, an "ignorant ass" and "just a moron who he'd gladly choke."

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