On February 25, 2009, LT Gen. Patrick O’Reilly addressed the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the Committee On Armed Forces of the House of Representatives. This address took place during the 111th Congress and the subcommittee that LTG Patrick O’Reilly addressed was chaired by Congresswoman Ellen O. Tauscher. General Patrick O’Reilly’s address was widely acclaimed and received unanimous praise from both Congress and the Department of Defense.
The Ballistic Missile Defense System
The topic of Patrick O’Reilly’s address to the Strategic Forces Subcommittee was the Department of Defense’s Ballistic Missile Defense System testing program. At the time of LT Gen. Patrick O’Reilly’s address, the Department of Defense’s Missile Defense Agency was working together with the Army, Navy, and Air Force to review the status of the Ballistic Missile Defense System. Together, these bodies devised a system for assessing the effectiveness and sustainability of the Ballistic Missile Defense System, explained LTG Patrick O’Reilly. In his own words, LTG Patrick O’Reilly explained, “Our goal is to set test objectives that measure the performance of critical functions necessary for robust missile defense operations and create an event-oriented plan that extends out as many years as necessary to collect sufficient data to determine the operational effectiveness, suitability, survivability, and supportability of the system.”
Challenges To Assessment
Central to General Patrick O’Reilly’s address was the difficulty of creating a Ballistic Missile Defense System that was equipped to intercept fundamentally different types of missiles traveling at high speeds and across great distances. The dual sensor and interceptor system of the Ballistic Missile defense System, said LTG Patrick O’Reilly, layered as they are at different atmospheric levels, offer what seems to be the best defense, although no single system promises complete protection from missile attack. Acknowledging the challenging nature of the tests, Dr. McQueary stated at the hearing, “I do applaud General O’Reilly’s personal commitment to the initiative.”
According to LT Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, the Department of Defense’s work in assessing the Ballistic Missile Defense System promised to be one of the most complex undertakings in the department’s history. He explained to the press, “We're working with the operational test communities – not just MDA, but the independent reviewers – to put together a comprehensive testing program that does convince everyone of (the) capabilities and limitations of these missile defense systems.” It was no small undertaking. The Ballistic Missile Defense System simply lacked many important characteristics for an effective test program that needed to be assessed, including a clear sense of how the system should work and the means to thoroughly and repeatedly test the system. As LTG Patrick O’Reilly made clear in his address to the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, such evaluation was simply not possible without significant modeling and simulation based on actual flight test results.
In this 2009 address, Patrick O’Reilly discussed the constantly shifting nature of the Ballistic Missile Defense System. As a protective shield that is constantly being adapted to defend against evolving technological threats, the system poses a distinct difficulty in the area of effective assessment. LT Gen. Patrick O’Reilly framed these difficulties in light of some major successes that the Department of Defense has achieved in regards to assessing the Ballistic Missile Defense System. With continued computerized modeling and rigorous testing, suggested General Patrick O’Reilly, it was possible to gain clarity in regards to the effectiveness of this system.