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O'Reilly Could Be Next Head Of MDA

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by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Oct 12, 2006
Has America found its next great engineer general to make midcourse ballistic missile defense a reality? The Pentagon is betting that it has. As MarketWatch reported on Oct. 3, the U.S. Department of Defense is promoting Brig. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly to be Gen. Henry "Trey" Obering's deputy at the Missile Defense Agency. O'Reilly would take up his new post as No. 2 at the MDA in January 2007.

As we noted in BMD Watch Tuesday, O'Reilly's appointment amounts to a vote of confidence by the Pentagon top brass that the long-troubled Ground-Based Midcourse Interceptor system, whose prime contractor is Boeing, is back on track at last, in a large part due to O'Reilly's efforts. On Sept. 1, a GBI launched from Fort Greeley, Alaska, exceeded expectations and successfully hit and destroyed a test missile that had been launched from California.

Since mid-2005, O'Reilly has been Gen. Obering's point man to get the much-troubled Ground-Based Midcourse Defense, or GMD program, the heart of the Bush administration's anti-ballistic missile program, back on track.

Under Obering's direction -- and with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's former favorites Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith now long gone from the Pentagon -- Obering and the MDA have been free of their relentless, reckless pressure to push ahead with GBI deployment at breakneck speed without component testing individual parts.

The Government Accountability Office last year found that this policy had left the first batch of GBIs deployed to guard against possible intercontinental ballistic missile nuclear attack by any so-called rogue state dangerously unreliable. The GAO report even recommended stripping those GBIs down, testing their parts and then laboriously re-assembling them.

However, with Wolfowitz and Feith gone, Obering has been free to show himself the worthy heir of the great U.S. Air Force engineering generals of the 1950s, like Bernard Schriever and Otto J. Glasser, who spearheaded the Minuteman and Atlas programs.

He has switched MDA resources away from high cost, speculative research and development programs beloved of the Pentagon's technocrats to systems that are either already operational, like the Patriot PAC-3, or to ones like the GBI that have the potential to go operational in the foreseeable future.

And, like Schriever, Glasser and the legendary Wernher Von Braun before him, Obering has focused the ballistic missile defense program on those old-fashioned and far from sexy but absolutely indispensable priorities: engineering reliability and quality control.

Obering has already reaped the rewards of this solid "nuts and bolts" approach to the BMD program. Some 19 out of the last 22 tests of the Patriot have been clear successes, the GBI program is back on track and traditional U.S. allies from Japan to Poland are clamoring to get on board the U.S. BMD bandwagon.

With Gen. O'Reilly's promotion to the number two position at MDA, it appears that Gen. Obering has found his chosen heir -- a hands-on, hard-charging engineering general who, like Obering, focuses on getting the nuts and bolts right. Unlike senior Pentagon civilian officials earlier in the Bush administration, Obering and O'Reilly do not waste their time dreaming so much about nebulous, science fiction weapons visions that they despise the basic principles of engineering required to get vital weapons to work reliably when they need to.

Others have recognized the importance of these common sense qualities. Pat Shanahan, the vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems, told MarketWatch, "Gen. O'Reilly is an energetic, results-oriented leader who displays an eagle eye for detail."

In many respects, bringing technologically cutting-edge strategic missile programs to reliable operational readiness is far harder today than it was in Gen. Schriever and Gen. Glasser's time.

Today's senior engineering and military officers are a lot more cautious about rocking the boat when they deal with private industry corporations than their predecessors of half a century ago were, or had to be.

It was one thing to give a provider company like Grumman or North American a hard run when you were working with them to get some crucial ordinance developed and built when you knew that when you retired there six or a dozen other contractors who would be pleased to later have you on their boards or in senior executive positions. It is another story entirely when the shrinkage of the U.S. general industrial sector and of the consolidation of high-tech corporations in particular, means that if you are a senior figure in developing tanks, warships aircraft or ABM radars, you know there are only three or four players in the game in the entire United States, and most of them perforce have to work in harmony and cooperation rather than fierce competition.

Over the past quarter century, the shrinkage of the old U.S. heavy industrial base and its replacement by a high-tech orientated Information Technology-centered economy has put the emphasis and the prestige for senior officers as well as civilian sector specialists on software and electronics, not the unfashionable old nuts-and-bolts of hardware engineering and rocket fuels.

This may suggest in part why the two unsuccessful tests of the Air Force's ABM interceptors before Gen. O'Reilly took over never even gave the high-tech electronic guidance wonders in their warheads the chance to do their stuff because on both occasions the "low-tech" rocket engines failed to even fire in the first place.

Obering and O'Reilly recognized those problems. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill recognize the achievements of both men. But they also need to remember the focus on old-fashioned engineering values that made those achievements possible.

Source: United Press International

Related Links
Learn about missile defense at SpaceWar.com
Learn about nuclear weapons doctrine and defense at SpaceWar.com

Lockheed Martin Selects Aonix PERC Virtual Machine For Aegis Weapon System
Birmingham, UK (SPX) Oct 13, 2006
Aonix announced that Lockheed Martin has selected the Aonix PERC Ultra virtual machine (VM) for the Aegis Weapon System Open Architecture Program. The Aegis Open Architecture team aims to enhance the capabilities and service life of the U.S. Navy's premier surface combat system while also reducing its cost.







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