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Vice Adm. James Syring, Director, Missile Defense Agency Vice Adm. James Syring, Director, Missile Defense Agency

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Defense Department

Vice Adm. James Syring, Director, Missile Defense Agency

North Korea's 29-year-old "Great Leader" (who has threatened to obliterate U.S. cities) and Iran's nuclear-weapons program have sparked interest in a little-known organization under the Defense Department's wide umbrella called the Missile Defense Agency, designed to protect against threats like these. "In the last year, we have made good progress in the development and deployment of the Ballistic Missile Defense System, and we continue to build capabilities to defeat more complex threats," Syring, the MDA's director, told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently. Long-range interceptors in Alaska and California have scored eight successful intercepts in 15 tests. Were it not for plummeting morale at MDA last year, Syring would not be here. In 2012, he was tapped after his predecessor, Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, was dismissed for abusive conduct toward subordinates, according to a report by the Pentagon Inspector General. Syring, 50, who grew up in Muncie, Ind., earned a bachelor's in marine engineering from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. He has a master's in mechanical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. Syring spent much of his career overseeing shipbuilding programs related to the Navy's Aegis air-defense system, and more recently as the program manager for the Navy's next-generation destroyer, DDG-1000.

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