Change of Command

/ November 21, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Missile Defense Agency has a new director. Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly took the reins today from retiring Air Force Lt. Gen. Trey Obering in a ceremony at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, VA.

O'Reilly has his work cut out for him, what with two wars and a faltering economy and promises from senior lawmakers of a "severe scrubbing" of MDA's budget next year.

Obering last week reiterated his agency's argument that MDA is "a very small part of the defense budget," somewhere around "less than 2 percent."

I believe that we have gone to great pains to outline a balanced program, with obviously the emphasis being on the near-term fielding and the development to support the near-term fielding, testing and sustainment, and that accounts for about 75 percent of our budget today. The 25 percent left over goes for programs like the Airborne Laser, Kinetic Energy Interceptor, . . . ((and)) our Space Tracking and Surveillance System.

Obering told reporters in a Nov. 12 teleconference call that Congress' "propensity" for cutting funding for future missile defense programs "would be a very bad mistake."

We're going to have to develop these capabilities to stay up with the threat and make sure that the interceptors and the sensors that we're fielding today remain effective in the future. If you cut those future programs, that's going to mean that basically we're going to be fielding systems today that are going to be obsolete in the mid-term of the future.

-- John Liang