Air Force Lt. Gen. Heath Collins receives the Missile Defense Agency colors during a ceremony Jan. 24 at Redstone Arsenal, signifying his assumption of responsibility as the 12th director of MDA.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Heath Collins receives the Missile Defense Agency colors during a ceremony Jan. 24 at Redstone Arsenal, signifying his assumption of responsibility as the 12th director of MDA. (Photo Credit: MDA) VIEW ORIGINAL

The Missile Defense Agency formally seated its new director during a change-of-responsibility ceremony Jan. 24 at Redstone Arsenal.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Heath Collins was confirmed by the Senate Dec. 5 as MDA’s 12th director and successor to now-retired Navy Vice Adm. Jon Hill.

Immediately prior to taking the reins at the top of MDA, Collins was the program executive for the Ground-based Weapon Systems. He also held positions of authority in Ground-based Midcourse Defense, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System, and four joint U.S. and Israeli programs.

Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu hosted the ceremony remotely, after it was postponed a week due to inclement weather.

“We’re incredibly fortunate to have such a great leader in our ranks – a leader who I know will take the Missile Defense Agency to new heights and push the boundaries to secure our nation and our interests in this complex geopolitical security environment,” she said. “As the 12th director of the Missile Defense Agency, he is absolutely the right leader at the right time. Missile defense has never been more important. Just look at the current situation around the world: in Ukraine, in the Middle East and China, North Korea. Missiles are proliferating rapidly, making this world more unstable and dangerous.”

MDA’s global mission is to develop, test, field, and sustain integrated layered Missile Defense System to defend the United States, its deployed forces, allies and friends from missile attacks in all phases of flight.

Shyu said the Department of Defense is laser-focused on deterring threats faced in this increasingly complex threat environment.

“The MDA mission is evolving beyond its initial focus on Ballistic Missile Defense to include more advanced missile threats, including hypersonic glide vehicles. Our Missile Defense System must operate on the battlefield in concert with a joint force in close collaboration with allies and partners,” she said. “MDA is making this happen.

“MDA is a critical element aligned with the (DOD) Secretary’s top priority for the Department of Defense: defending the nation. The job of improving national security will never stand still. We must constantly evolve our capabilities to stay ahead of the threats.”

As director, Collins is responsible for advising the OUSD(R&E) undersecretary on ballistic missile defense policy, requirements, priorities, systems, resources and programs, as well as leading MDA’s more than 9,000 military, civilian, and contract employees working in locations across 13 time zones.

When Collins took the stage, he asserted that MDA will continue to push boundaries and make the impossible possible as it moves forward.

“As Honorable Shyu mentioned, and as the battlefields in Ukraine and Israel have illustrated, the proliferation of diverse missile systems and the willingness of countries and non-state actors to use them against us and our allies and our friends and partners have made the world more dangerous and unpredictable than ever,” he said.

Though their actions show that adversaries are focused and resourced, Collins said he knows MDA is the right agency at the right time to meet the unprecedented threats.

“The world is getting more complicated and dangerous – Honorable Shyu touched on a lot of it, you see it in the news every day. But I’m not worried,” Collins said. “I’m not worried because of the one thing the adversary doesn’t have and will never have – and that’s you. You are just what makes this missile defense enterprise great and very, very special. So let’s go fast, let’s think big and let’s get after it. Our nation is counting on us.”