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Missile Defense Agency Change of Responsibility Ceremony (Arlington, VA)
As Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon R. England, Arlington, VA, Friday, November 21, 2008

Thank you, COL Bagnati [Chief of Staff, MDA] for that nice introduction.

Lieutenant General Trey Obering and his wife, Anne… their children, Arianne, Anthony, and Paul… General Obering’s mother, Bebe… his sisters, Bebe, Linda, Suzanne, and Diane.

Lieutenant General Pat O’Reilly and his wife, Judy… their daughters, Siobhan and Brighid… and, to all the other family members and friends… welcome.

I like to tell people about a remarkable thing that happens every morning in the cities, towns, counties, and states across our great nation… here in Arlington, VA, in Washington, D.C., Alexandria, Texas, California… everywhere.  The remarkable thing that happens every morning is that every single person wakes up free.  That doesn’t happen by accident… not by chance… and, it’s not by some inalienable right.  It happens because great Americans for over 230 years have risked and in some cases given their lives for our freedom.  I’ve been so impressed by these people, especially those serving today on behalf of our country.

This is a special milestone in the history of the Missile Defense Agency. 

First – Trey, on behalf of Secretary Gates, let me congratulate you and thank you for a job extraordinarily well done.  You assumed responsibility for this System during a critical transition period… and, over the past four years you’ve provided exactly the right leadership and expertise to ensure its success.

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with you on this program on many occasions, both as Deputy Secretary of Defense and previously as Secretary of the Navy… my congratulations to you and your team for the progress that’s been made towards achieving this important capability for the defense of our nation.

Under Trey’s leadership, the Missile Defense Agency has… expanded the defensive capability of the Ballistic Missile Defense System to protect the U.S. Homeland, our deployed forces, allies and friends… by increasing the number of short, medium, and long-range interceptors… by integrating an impressive number of early-warning advanced radars and sensors for tracking and discrimination… and by coordinating all these capabilities with the warfighter into a single, integrated system. 

Under General Obering’s leadership, MDA has been very successful in building critical relationships and partnerships with our friends and allies around the world – most notably… Japan, our European and NATO allies, and Israel.  During your tenure, Trey – MDA has more than doubled the number of international engagements.

You’ve also expanded MDA partnerships by working closely with the operational community, with Members of Congress, and the President to make sure they’ve been well-informed about the capabilities and challenges of the Ballistic Missile Defense System. 

In February of this year there was another major milestone… the world saw the MDA capability in action… when the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense technology was employed to intercept – 130 miles above the surface of the earth – an uncontrolled satellite carrying highly-toxic propellant materials… before re-entering the atmosphere. 

That shot demonstrated to the world that our nation’s leaders have a capability available other than consequence management. 

Trey – under your leadership, the MDA team has achieved many successful “firsts” for the program, including:

The first ground-based midcourse defense intercept of a long-range target in operationally realistic conditions… and, the first simultaneous destruction of two short-range ballistic missiles at sea.

Since July 2004, MDA has achieved 18 out of 21 hit-to-kill intercepts.

Thanks to your efforts… and, the efforts of so many hard-working, dedicated, and patriotic men and women… the ballistic missile defense technology President Reagan believed could be achieved has been proven successful.  And, our nation now has a limited defensive capability against the threat of ballistic missiles.

Lieutenant General Obering, on behalf of a grateful nation – I thank you again for your 35 years of service and your dedication to this program.  Your leadership and many contributions as the Director of the Missile Defense Agency have made our country safer.  You can retire knowing you made America safer.  And, you have prepared this Agency well for the challenges that lie ahead.   

Your career has been a fitting symbol of MDA’s excellence.  I wish you, Anne, and your family best wishes in all your future endeavors.  You have certainly earned it!  Good luck and Godspeed to you.

We have another great leader prepared to take on this Agency… Major General O’Reilly, you are the right person for this job… and, you are uniquely prepared to pick up where Trey has left off and lead this Agency into the next chapter. 

You now have the confidence of the nation you will serve well in the challenging months and years to come.  

Welcome aboard!