By Amy Fredette
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Lt. Gen. Malcolm O'Neill, director of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, toured UA science labs for the first time yesterday to view the benefits of his department's funding.
Invited by Sen. John McCain, Sen. Jon Kyle, Rep. Jim Kolbe and Rep. Matt Salmon, O'Neill visited the Optical Sciences Center, the Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory and the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory West.
"I've been impressed by the quality of work, the enthusiasm of the students and faculty support," O'Neill said.
O'Neill was especially impressed by the OSC, which he referred to as "first in terms of optics."
"It's a great opportunity to show him what we've got," said Richard Powell, director of the OSC.
As for the significance of O'Neill's visit, Powell said, "It's essentially communication to let him know what we're doing through his office and to be able to ask for more support. He's the one who ultimately makes the decisions."
O'Neill said that he did not know much about the SOML or LPLW, but visited them because they work together with the OSC.
The LPLW was originally founded in 1988 with funding from the Strategic Defense Initiative Office, now known as the BMDO, said Lyle Broadfoot, senior research scientist for LPLW. The department is funded by the U.S. Air Force, sponsored by NASA.
Broadfoot said that O'Neill's visit let him know that the BMDO is interested in what his department is doing. Broadfoot added that he hopes that this interest will invite more BMDO funding for the LPLW.
When asked if he learned anything from his visit, O'Neill replied that "it's not as difficult as I thought to make large optical objects (mirrors) of such clear and high quality."
O'Neill received a bachelor of science degree in physics from DePaul University and both a master of science degree and doctorate in physics from Rice University.
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