Known for her ability to break out in song and perform as one of the Andrews Sisters, Kay Bushman broke the mold of a straitlaced office lawyer.
A methodical leader, masterful negotiator, talented mediator and trusted mentor, Bushman joined the elite group of former DLA Energy employees in the Defense Logistics Agency Energy Hall of Fame during an induction ceremony at the McNamara Headquarters Complex, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Nov. 13.
Her knack for making people smile complemented her more than three decades of significant contributions to the DLA Energy mission.
“I am completely overwhelmed by this honor; it doesn’t happen very often,” Bushman said as she began her acceptance speech. “First, I want to be clear about one thing … I will not be singing today.”
As the crowd laughed, she thanked her colleagues and leadership and said all she was looking for was meaningful work but found much more than that.
Starting her career as an assistant counsel in the Office of Counsel in 1985, Bushman worked her way up to associate counsel in 1992. In 1998, as a result of her leadership and initiative, she was hand-picked for a three year detail to a non-attorney position, serving as deputy director for a Fuels Accounting System Information Technology project. She returned to the Office of Counsel in 2002 until 2016 when she retired.
In her retirement speech, Bushman reflected on her federal career.
“After working in a law firm for three years and hating it, I joined the Defense Fuels Supply Center at Cameron Station in 1985,” she said. “And the rest – as they say – is history. I always found new and interesting work to do.”
Bushman was on the front line of fuels history as the DLA Energy mission evolved over the next thirty years, bringing significant transformation. She helped her DLA Energy clients navigate the rules and requirements of the acquisition process ensuring that stronger contracting arrangements were in place to minimize risks.
She specifically listed several of the projects she worked on including environmental and fiscal work in the 1990s, Iraq and Afghanistan contracts, alternative energy, multiple high-visibility lawsuits, missile fuels, Jet A conversion, government fuel card program, and more.
She said her most memorable was her trip to Kyrgyzstan in 2010 when then the Kyrgyzstan government was overthrown by Russian-leaning forces. “I’d better get packing,” was all she said when she was asked to provide legal support as DLA Energy negotiated with the newly installed foreign government.
Deploying with less than 24 hours’ notice, Bushman succinctly distilled the imminent fuel interruptions during the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. She worked with Office of the Secretary of Defense and embassy personnel to “masterfully” negotiate with the new government using her intricate knowledge of international law. Her efforts earned her a Special Act award and recognition from then-DLA Director Vice Adm. Thompson for her “outstanding and fearless efforts during such a critical time.”
Bushman often undertook work that challenged conventional thought.
“Kay was a solutions-oriented person who often started her sentences with, ‘let’s figure out how we can do this,’ instead of, ‘no, we can’t do that, and here are the reasons why,’” said Kathleen Murphy, Bushman’s prior boss and current chief counsel for DLA Energy.
She routinely volunteered for novel projects where there was no clear legal precedent governing the course of action, developing solutions or providing guidance supported by thorough legal analysis.
Applying her experience in long-term contracts, Bushman litigated several cases for bulk storage contracts providing client counseling, handling protests and working on proposals to amend legislation. In 2014, she was an integral part of the Navy’s Farm-to-Fleet Program team working to negotiate biofuel contracts and pricing. She made the process transparent to all interested parties, effectively communicated how the new structure worked and made sure evaluations of alternative fuel and conventional petroleum offers were fair.
“Ms. Bushman’s vast knowledge of the DLA Energy mission earned her the respect of fellow attorneys and acquisition professionals throughout the organization,” said Frank Rechner, Deputy Director of DLA Energy Supplier Operations. “She was a trusted mentor and talented mediator who was able to build trust and collaboration while giving people opportunities to excel.”
Energy’s Hall of Fame was established in 2016 to honor and preserve the memory of past associates for their exceptional leadership, service, dedication to duty, and contributions in supplying fuel to the Warfighter.