Pribble, DLA general counsel, retires after 35 years at DoD

By John Bell

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Defense Logistics Agency General Counsel Fred T. Pribble retired May 3 after a 35-year career at the Department of Defense, in a ceremony at the McNamara Headquarters Complex.

At the event, Pribble was presented three high-level awards: The Exceptional Civilian Service Award from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the DLA Exceptional Civilian Service Award, and the DLA Distinguished Service Award — along with a personalized DLA flag. Pribble’s wife of more than 30 years, Ginger, was awarded a DLA Certificate of Appreciation for her support of Pribble and by extension the DLA Office of General Counsel.

The audience included numerous current and former flag officers and members of the Senior Executive Service with whom Pribble had served; members of Pribble’s extended family; attorneys and professional staff who had worked for Pribble at the DLA Office of General Counsel and earlier in his career; and several neighbors. Pribble thanked each of these guests by name in his remarks.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Andy Busch, the director of DLA, noted several examples of Pribble’s leadership in his 10 years of service to the agency. He cited the Pribble-led OGC’s successful pursuit of charges against a fraudulent prime-vendor contract, resulting in an Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals decision in favor of DLA, a fraud conviction, and nearly $90 million to the taxpayers.

Busch praised Pribble’s leadership in advising DLA in 2012 in its effort to provide disaster relief after Hurricane Sandy. DLA was able to perform the complex contracting and financial transactions to rapidly source and deliver millions of items and supplies to affected areas overseas “largely because we had the strength of our conviction in knowing we were on the right side of the law,” thanks to Pribble and his team of attorneys, Busch said. That experienced helped the agency respond quickly and effectively to the Ebola crisis in Africa two years later.

Finally, Busch heralded the work of Pribble and his team in helping DLA chart the legal course to respond quickly to requests for humanitarian assistance items for refugees and migrants in Iraq and Syria in 2015. DLA succeeded, “largely because we had a legal team that helped us get to yes and helped us solve these problems,” Busch said.

“Getting to yes” is something Pribble has long sought to encourage in his attorneys, he noted in a recent interview. “I’ve told them that practicing law is an art. A lot of times, the easiest answer is no — but that’s not always the only answer,” he noted. “I tell them you really need to know your craft — the law, the regulations, the governing policies. Because if you do, there’s always a lot of different ways to get your client to the ultimate goal, which is yes. And it’s the attorney that really knows their craft that can avoid having to just say ‘No’ as a knee-jerk reaction.”

Busch in his remarks pointed to three features of Pribble’s leadership style that he said contributed to Pribble’s effectiveness: an inclusive style, in which all felt valued regardless of location or job series; a commitment helping develop his staff, through rotational assignments and other opportunities; and a personal touch, in which Pribble routinely visited DLA’s field activities, and made individual connections.

That personal touch has long been important to Pribble, he said in the interview — a lesson he credited to his mentor, Marine Corps Col. Jim Terry. “Care about your people, and to the extent they let you, care about them on a personal level,” he said. “And let them know that you care about them.”

Pribble began his career in 1981 in the Judge Advocate General Corps after completing his bachelor’s and law degrees at Creighton University and a master’s of international law at the University of Stockholm.

Before coming to DLA, Pribble was instrumental as the legal adviser to the Peace Stabilization Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina and later as senior legal adviser to the NATO commander there, Busch noted.

He said his and Ginger’s retirement plans include relaxing at their summer home and at their lake house in Ohio with their two dogs, and spending more time with their many friends and family members.