SDDC attorney recognized for outstanding ethics program

Brian E. Toland (left), AMC Command Counsel, presents David DiCenso, SDDC senior attorney, with Army Materiel Command’s Edward J. Korte Preventive Law Program Award during a ceremony May 22 in Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

Brian E. Toland (left), AMC Command Counsel, presents David DiCenso, SDDC senior attorney, with Army Materiel Command’s Edward J. Korte Preventive Law Program Award during a ceremony May 22 in Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

By Kim Dixon
Attorney-Advisor, Hq. SDDC

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. — David DiCenso, Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command senior attorney, received Army Materiel Command’s Edward J. Korte Preventive Law Program Award in a ceremony on May 22 in Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

DiCenso was selected for his efforts as the SDDC lead ethics counselor, and to recognize the SDDC Ethics program, which strives to provide solid advice and counsel to the command.

While a common portrayal of an attorney is someone who spends days in the courtroom litigating a dispute, the reality is that attorneys, such as DiCenso, spend the majority of their time counseling clients before those clients make decisions or take actions, whether that person is acting as an individual or officially, on behalf of the command.  The Edward J. Korte Preventive Law Program Award recognizes attorneys who encourage their clients to seek advice early in order to weigh the alternatives prior to taking action, and to discuss legal implications of those potential decisions.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by SDDC and AMC for the work I do in supporting the command,” DiCenso said, who has served on active duty in the Air Force, as well as an Air Force Reserve Judge Advocate, and as a civilian employee of the Army, for a total of 26 years.   DiCenso commented, “My goal is to encourage everyone in the command to pause a moment before taking action, and to consider the potential ethics issues; I think this is even more important now than it was when I first entered the DoD in 1988; and I want people to feel comfortable in approaching me, or any of the other attorneys in the office – because we’re all on the same SDDC team!”

DiCenso has created a command-wide Ethics Program that emphasizes training and awareness.  When an SDDC attorney travels on any staff judge advocate business, DiCenso prepares those attorneys to provide in-person ethics training at the temporary duty location as needed.  DiCenso has also personally delivered ethics training sessions during previous SDDC Training Symposiums that was attended by both command personnel and commercial carrier representatives.

“His efforts to deliver in-person training have raised the general awareness of ethics issues throughout the command much more effectively than could have been done through electronic media,” said Col. James Dorn, SDDC Staff Judge Advocate.  “Since commercial carrier representatives were permitted to attend his presentations, they became more aware of the constraints and limitations under which we must operate, thereby facilitating better understanding between SDDC and our industry partners.”

As with the transportation world, the ethics world also has “seasons,” or times when various ethics issues arise out of the activities and events that happen during those times.  For example, immediately before the height of the “PCS Peak Moving Season,” DiCenso sent out an ethics rule reminder to all personnel regarding gifts to superiors.  Throughout the holiday season, DiCenso sent ethics reminders regarding the giving and acceptance of gifts and the conduct of employees at holiday parties.  These reminders typically generated replies and inquiries from SDDC employees that have allowed DiCenso to work through potential legal issues rather than having to react to legal crises after-the-fact.

“During my training sessions, I try to point out to folks that it’s a lot like the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme; it’s easier to keep Humpty Dumpty balanced on the wall than it is to try to put him together again after he falls, so seeking legal advice BEFORE it’s too late is critical,” said DiCenso.  He continued “it’s a lot easier for all concerned to think ahead and choose the best path instead of dealing with the legal aftermath of a poor ethical decision.  This is particularly true in these days when optics are so important.”

One of DiCenso’s key tasks involved keeping the command on the right path with regard to conferences.  As conference policy has radically changed several times in rapid succession due to federal fiscal considerations, his program has ensured that SDDC follows the latest guidelines to provide maximum flexibility for the command while being able to legally justify each event.   Although the conference rules have recently stabilized somewhat, it is still critical to seek a thorough legal analysis before traveling to, planning, or executing a training, conference, or symposium.  The goal is to ensure compliance with the latest guidelines, conserving taxpayers’ dollars, and meet the needs of our command.

“These issues are much more difficult in SDDC than in other commands, as we manage a global program that primarily relies upon our commercial partners to execute the mission; thus the issues we face are generally unique issues of first impression for SDDC and the Army,” said Dorn.  “His thorough and comprehensive command of myriad ethics issues, standards, and guidance over years of experience in the DoD gives him the additional insight necessary to help ensure public and private perceptions are properly considered prior to SDDC conference activity.”

The Edward J. Korte Preventive Law Program Award is one of six recognitions open to AMC-wide attorneys and patent advisors that recognize various practice areas within the law.  DiCenso received a Department of Army Certificate of Achievement and a commemorative award plaque.

“Mr. DiCenso has made monumental strides in publicizing the importance of ethics, providing informative and entertaining ethics training, and anticipating through periodic ethics rules reminders those issues that most affect our clients,” Dorn said.  “He has built strong working relationships with personnel throughout SDDC’s global command, as well as within Transportation Command and other commands at Scott Air Force Base.  His leadership in ethics and transportation law has garnered the respect of the Commanding General and the Command Group.”