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Latest misbehaving senior officer to retire

Jan. 5, 2013 - 09:25AM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 5, 2013 - 09:25AM  |  
Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly
Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly (Alex Wong / Getty Images)
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A three-star Army general accused of bullying subordinates is retiring without a demotion in rank, the Pentagon said Jan. 2.

Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly was placed on the retirement rolls Jan. 1, said Pentagon spokesman Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen.

A Pentagon inspector general's investigation last year found that O'Reilly regularly yelled and screamed at subordinates, often in public, demeaned and belittled employees and behaved in such a way as to result in the departure of at least six senior staffers from the Missile Defense Agency while he was its director.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta determined that O'Reilly had met the basic standard for being allowed to retire without a loss in rank, which is that he "served satisfactorily" as a three-star general.

However, Panetta also placed in O'Reilly's permanent file a letter of reprimand, according to a senior defense official. The official, who disclosed the reprimand on condition of anonymity because it will not be publicly announced, said the letter states that Panetta disapproves of O'Reilly's management and behavior as head of the MDA.

According to a report from the Defense Department's Inspector General's office made public in July, O'Reilly "engaged in a leadership style that was inconsistent with standards of senior Army leaders" and a violation of military [ethics] regulations.

Witnesses also described O'Reilly as loudly attacking senior staff members on a personal rather than a professional level.

Describing one of the many incidents in the report, a senior official testified that 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 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 that 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 a 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.

Army Secretary John McHugh reviewed the report's findings and consulted with the service's general counsel before referring the matter to the Army vice chief of staff, Gen. Lloyd Austin, for appropriate disposition, Army spokesman George Wright told The Washington Post in July.

O'Reilly, whose four-year anniversary with the agency was in November, intended to retire from the Army early this year, according to Rick Lehner, a spokesman for MDA, in an email to Army Times. Directors at the agency have typically served for three to four years, although two of the eight directors have served about five years, he said.

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 headed the organization, which received $8.4 billion in fiscal 2012 and is responsible for developing, testing and fielding layered defenses against ballistic missiles.

In August, President Obama nominated Rear Adm. (lower half) James D. Syring to replace O'Reilly. Panetta announced Syring's nomination for appointment to the rank of vice admiral and for assignment as the director of MDA at Fort Belvoir, Va., according to a Defense Department news release in August.

Misbehaving leaders

The O'Reilly investigation is one of several recent cases involving alleged misconduct by high-ranking Army leaders.

Col. James Johnson III, former commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, was relieved of duty and court-martialed in June. Johnson was convicted of 17 counts, including bigamy, adultery and fraud in connection with an affair he had with an Iraqi woman.

Johnson was fined $300,000 and allowed to retire as a lieutenant colonel, a sentence that produced howls of outrage within the force.

In another case, the former head of U.S. Africa Command, Gen. William "Kip" Ward, was stripped of a star and ordered to repay taxpayers some $82,000 for abusing his travel privileges and expense accounts, the Pentagon announced in November.

In January 2011, he and his 12-person entourage made an 11-day trip to Washington and Atlanta, where he conducted less than three days of official business. The trip cost taxpayers nearly $130,000, according to the IG.

On another trip, he told his staff to refuel in Bermuda, where he and his wife stayed in a $750-a-night hotel suite.

Another officer, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, will face a court-martial over forcible sodomy and other sexual misconduct charges in connection with an affair and inappropriate relationships with subordinates, according to the Army.

Sinclair, who faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of the most serious offenses, is alleged to have mistreated subordinates while carrying out the affair and allegedly attempted to cover up his conduct with threats and by deleting nude photos and an email account.

The Army on Dec. 19 released a five-page list of charges, which involve Sinclair's conduct with five women other than his wife. A hearing featured testimony from a female Army officer, who recalled resisting while Sinclair gripped her neck and forced her to perform oral sex. Another witness quoted Sinclair saying: "I'm a general. I'll do what the [expletive] I want."

Sinclair was the 82nd Airborne Division's deputy commanding general for support until he was ordered home from Afghanistan last year.

Lt. Gen. Daniel Allyn, commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps, referred the case to a general court-martial. Sinclair is to be arraigned Jan. 22.

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