Law watchdogs focus on serving command
For an attorney, a position with the Army Materiel Command can be an ideal opportunity to practice law while also supporting one of the nation’s leading Army organizations.
For Brian Toland, it means even more than that. His appointment to the Senior Executive Service and assignment as deputy command counsel for AMC in November 2009 eventually led to a move back to Huntsville. And in October, he assumed the position of command counsel, the senior legal adviser to the AMC commander.
“I started working for AMC at the U.S. Army Aviation and Troop Command Legal Office in St. Louis and then came to Redstone Arsenal in 1997 with the BRAC move (which merged the Aviation Command with the Missile Command to create the Aviation and Missile Command). I left AMCOM in 2006 for a chance to go do protest litigation work at AMC headquarters at Fort Belvoir,” Toland said.
“So, coming back to Huntsville again was sort of like coming home for me and my family (including his wife, and now 16-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son). We really enjoyed the Washington, D.C. area but we’re happy to be back. It’s great seeing old friends and reconnecting. And we were very surprised how much growth has occurred here at the Arsenal and in Huntsville in the five and half years we were gone.”
Toland leads a legal staff of 28 attorneys and paralegals at AMC headquarters, and his office provides a full array of legal services in all fields of government legal practice supporting AMC’s worldwide mission.
“We are responsible for a broad range of complex legal areas, including acquisition, personnel, environmental and fiscal law,” Toland said. “Our main purpose is to provide top-notch legal advice and business counsel to the AMC commanding general (Gen. Dennis Via) and his headquarters staff element.”
The AMC Office of the Command Counsel also oversees the work of more than 350 attorneys worldwide who represent AMC, its major subordinate commands, and various AMC and Army activities.
“We are the qualifying authority for those attorneys who are supporting the AMC worldwide mission to provide logistics support to the joint war fighter,” Toland said. “We work closely with our subordinate commands – including the Aviation and Missile Command, Army Contracting Command, and the Expeditionary Contracting Command, all located here at Redstone Arsenal, as well as all other AMC commands both CONUS and OCONUS.”
In addition to being a member of the Army’s Senior Executive Service, Toland serves as a colonel in the Army Reserve. His extensive legal background includes serving five and a half years on active duty as an Army judge advocate. His 20 years within AMC have allowed him to gain invaluable legal experience in a multitude of legal fields. Today, as AMC’s command counsel, Toland’s experience is matched only by the legal background of the other members who make up AMC’s legal staff.
“We have a very experienced group of senior lawyers who are truly experts in their particular fields of legal practice,” he said.
“Our work centers on supporting our great Soldiers in the field. And it also revolves around public service. On a daily basis, you feel you are adding value not only to the Army but to the nation. AMC is a great command to work for because we are an organization made up of largely civilian employees who have supported two wars over the past 11 years in every aspect of logistics. During that time, we’ve had numerous civilian attorneys deploy to theater to help AMC accomplish the mission.”
Much of the AMC legal work focuses on government acquisition and also contract litigation. In fiscal year 2012, the Army Contracting Command awarded $71.4 billion in contracts, totaling 229,000 contract actions. With that many dollars at stake, there are bound to be disappointed bidders, Toland said.
“The number of GAO protests filed government-wide in fiscal year 2012 rose and that’s not unusual in this kind of economy,” he said. “Sometimes when there is less money to go around, contractors will be more aggressive in fighting for a contract, and that can lead to protests when a contract award doesn’t go the way they think it should.
“Within AMC, our acquisition professionals and attorneys handled over 180 bid protests. We were highly effective in achieving successful outcomes in the overwhelming majority of cases. That is a testament to the great work of both our attorneys and contracting professionals.”
Other areas that have gained a significant focus include procurement fraud, personnel and labor relations, and ethics training.
“Last year, we had a goal to ensure that every employee at AMC headquarters received face-to-face ethics training,” Toland said.
“At times it seems that there are so many rules and regulations to adhere to that our employees can sometimes feel overwhelmed. People want to do the right thing and it is our job to help them accomplish the mission while adhering to the highest ethical standards. Gen. Via sets a tremendous example and we in the legal community certainly feel that we add value in this area by providing ethics training as well as legal advice and counsel.”
Toland said the AMC Office of Command Counsel is much like any other large law firm.
“The quality of the attorneys we have at headquarters and throughout our AMC commands is really extraordinary, and we are lucky to get to work on a wide variety of interesting legal issues,” he said.
There is much the AMC attorneys share with their counterparts in the private bar – including a love for the law, a penchant for details and a commitment to serving.
“As an attorney work force, we are problem solvers. We strive to help our leaders get to the right answer legally and to make good decisions, always for the benefit of the Army,” Toland said.