U.S. Department Of Agriculture: Assistant General Counsel, General Law and Research (Washington, DC)

Job Title:Assistant General Counsel, General Law and Research

Department:Department Of Agriculture

Agency:Office of the General Counsel

Job Announcement Number:DA-OGC-2012-0005


$119,554.00 to $179,700.00 / Per Year


Wednesday, May 09, 2012 to Friday, June 08, 2012




Full-time – Permanent




1 vacancy(s) – Washington, DC, USView Map


Applications will be accepted from all groups of qualified individuals.


The Senior Executive Service (SES) is comprised of the men and women charged with leading the continuing transformation of government. These leaders possess well-honed executive skills and share a broad perspective of government and a public service commitment which is grounded in the Constitution. This position is SES, General. Positions in the SES are not graded. SES employees are also eligible for bonuses and awards based on performance. Veteran’s preference is not applicable to the SES. Selectee is subject to a one-year probationary period, unless currently serving under an SES appointment. Visit http://www.opm.gov/ses/ for additional information regarding SES employees.

If you would like to work for a premier agency that is focused on enhancing the quality of life for the American people by supporting production of agriculture: ensuring a safe, affordable, nutritious, and accessible food supply; caring for agricultural, forest, and range lands; supporting sound development of rural communities; providing economic opportunities for farm and rural residents; expanding global markets for agricultural and forest products and services; and working to reduce hunger in America and throughout the world, USDA is the place for you.

This position is located in the Office of the General Counsel (OGC). OGC is an independent legal agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). OGC provides legal advice and services to the Secretary of Agriculture and to all other officials and agencies of the Department with respect to all USDA programs and activities.

The Assistant General Counsel for the General Law and Research Division of the Office of the General Counsel is responsible, Jointly with the Associate General Counsel for General Law and Research, for (1) direction and supervision of all litigation in Federal and State appellate courts in connection with matters arising under USDA programs and activities, preparation of USDA’s recommendations to the Department of Justice regarding review of decisions and orders issued by U.S. District Courts, and handling of cases before the U.S. Courts of Appeals which are delegated to USDA by the Department of Justice; (2) direction and supervision of all USDA legal work arising under the Federal Tort Claims Act, the Freedom of Information Act, the Privacy Act, and the Federal Advisory Committee Act; (3) advice to USDA officials and agencies respecting all aspects of Federal appropriations law as applied to all USDA programs and activities; (4) supervision and direction of all legal work under statutes and regulations applying to procurement contracts, grants, cooperative agreements, and agricultural research programs; and (5) supervision of a staff of attorneys and support personnel in connection with the performance of all such duties.

To learn more about our agency, our exciting mission, vision, and guiding principles, please visit http://www.usda.gov



  • Background and/or Security Investigation required
  • You must be a U.S. Citizen to qualify for this position


Provides legal advice and services to the Under and Assistant Secretaries, Agency Administrators, and other officials who are responsible for the above activities of the Department.

Provides legal advice and counsel, upon direction of the General Counsel and the Associate General Counsel, to these officials, the Secretary, the Deputy Secretary, and officials of other Government agencies with respect to all legal problems, procedures, and practices arising from the development and formulation of broad policies, the completion of day-to-day operations, the adequate protection of the Government’s interests, and the integration of these activities with other programs of the Department and programs of other departments and agencies of the Government.

In accordance with the Secretary’s policies and in collaboration with the above officials, prepares proposed legislation for recommendation to the Congress, interprets and applies Federal and State statutes, administrative rules and regulations, and other decisions affecting the programs and operations of the Department, renders legal opinions, develops briefs of legal authorities in connection with Department programs and agricultural issues.

Attends as counsel for the Department in the assigned field, and as special legal consultant to top level officials, conferences and meetings with leading representatives of industry, business, and agriculture, and with staff members of the Office of Counsel to the President, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Government Accountability Office, and in this capacity is required to provide expert legal advice with respect to many novel situations and complex legal problems.

Confers with the Solicitor General, Assistant Attorneys General, and other officials of the Department of Justice in connection with Departmental litigation at the appellate level.

Supervises, reviews, and provides administrative and technical advice to subordinate attorneys performing all legal services with respect to legislation within the Division’s subject areas, including the preparation of proposed legislation, explanatory materials, and testimony, analysis of legislative proposals submitted by Congressional committees, OMB, and other Government agencies, the preparation of the Department’s views on such legislation, and interaction with Department stakeholders regarding such legislation;

Supervises and reviews preparation of briefs and presentation of oral argument in the appellate courts in connection with cases delegated to the Department for handling;

Coordinates litigation policies, including related e-discovery, and procedures for referral of cases, and assists the Department of Justice by preparing pleadings and briefs and aiding in the trial of especially important or precedent-establishing cases;

Approves for legal sufficiency and adequacy Department plans or proposals relating to reorganizations, transfers of functions and funds, and delegations of authority within the Department and from other Government agencies;

Drafts, reviews, and assists in negotiation of highly important research and other contracts, cooperative agreements, licenses, and permits, involving large sums of money;

Approves for legal sufficiency proposed appropriations language, and determines whether items included in same are subject to points of order in the legislative process;

Represents the Government as attorney in procurement contract matters pending before the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals and the Government Accountability Office;

Makes primary determinations on claims submitted under the Federal Tort Claims Act and other statutes;

Advises with respect to copyright and trademark issues, and prosecutes patent applications, deciding whether or not to appeal a decision of the U.S. Patent Office or to enter an “interference” proceeding and, if adverse, recommending appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit;

Provides advice with respect to homeland security, continuity of operations planning, national security (including personnel and document security), and cyber security issues; and

Through review and coordination, insures uniform application of legal policies nationwide in those areas where responsibility has been delegated to OGC’s field offices.


As a basic requirement for entry into the SES, applicants must provide evidence of progressively responsible leadership experience that is indicative of senior executive level managerial capability and directly related to the skills and abilities outlined under Mandatory Technical Qualifications and Executive Core Qualifications.

Typically, experience of this nature will have been gained at or above the GS-15 grade level in the Federal service, or its equivalent with state or local government, the private sector, or non- governmental organizations. Your resume needs to emphasize your level of responsibilities, the scope and complexity of programs managed, and your program accomplishments, including the results of your actions.

Failure to meet the basic qualification requirement and all Mandatory Technical and Executive Core Qualification factors automatically disqualifies an applicant.

Applicants must have a professional law degree (LL.B. or J.D.) and be an active member of the bar of any state, the District of Columbia, or the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.


A. EXECUTIVE CORE QUALIFICATIONS (ECQ): All applicants must submit written statements. Your narrative response must not exceed two (2) pages per ECQ.

The ECQs were designed to assess executive experience and potential not technical expertise. They measure whether an individual has the broad executive skills needed to succeed in a variety of SES positions. All applicants must submit written statements describing accomplishments that would satisfy the ECQs.

You must address each ECQ separately. You are required to respond to all ECQs. If you fail to do so, you will be rated as ‘ineligible.’

Each accomplishment should be clear, concise, and emphasize your level of responsibilities, the scope and complexity of programs managed, and results of your actions.

Additional information on the ECQs is available at http://www.opm.gov/ses/recruitment/ecq.asp.

ECQ 1 LEADING CHANGE: This core qualification involves the ability to bring about strategic change, both within and outside the organization, to meet organizational goals. Inherent to this ECQ is the ability to establish an organizational vision and to implement it in a continuously changing environment. (Competencies: Creativity and Innovation, External Awareness, Flexibility. Resilience, Strategic Thinking, Vision

ECQ 2 LEADING PEOPLE: This core qualification involves the ability to lead people toward meeting the organization’s vision, mission, and goals. Inherent to this ECQ is the ability to provide an inclusive workplace that fosters the development of others, facilitates cooperation and teamwork, and supports constructive resolution of conflicts. In addition to this ECQ, you must also describe your accomplishments in EEO and/or CIVIL RIGHTS. This includes opportunities provided to minorities and women to receive grants and/or contracts, employment and advancement, training, award recognition, and program benefits. (Competencies: Conflict Management, Leveraging Diversity, Developing Others, Team Building)

ECQ 3 RESULTS DRIVEN: This core qualification involves the ability to meet organizational goals and customer expectations. Inherent to this ECQ is the ability to make decisions that produce high-quality results by applying technical knowledge, analyzing problems, and calculating risks. (Competencies: Accountability, Customer Service, Decisiveness, Entrepreneurship, Problem Solving, Technical Credibility)

ECQ 4 BUSINESS ACUMEN: This core qualification involves the ability to manage human, financial, and information resources strategically. (Competencies: Financial Management, Human Capital Management, Technology Management)

ECQ 5 BUILDING COALITIONS: This core qualification involves the ability to build coalitions internally and with other Federal agencies, State and local governments, nonprofit and private sector organizations, foreign governments, or international organizations to achieve common goals. (Competencies: Partnering, Political Savvy, Influencing/Negotiating)

Fundamental Competencies: These competencies are the foundation for success in each of the Executive Core Qualifications; Interpersonal Skills, Oral Communication, Continual Learning, Written Communication, Integrity/Honesty, Public Service Motivation. The Fundamental Competencies are crosscutting; they should be addressed over the course of your ECQ narrative. It is not necessary for you to address the Fundamental Competencies directly as long as the narrative, in its totality, shows mastery of these competencies on the whole.

The following applicants may omit the mandatory ECQ narrative statements, but must provide proof of status as stated below.

1. Applicants who are currently serving under a SES-Career appointment or who are eligible for reinstatement into the SES. You must provide a recent Standard Form 50 (SF-50) that documents career appointment to the SES.

2. Applicants who are graduates of an OPM-approved SES Candidate Development Program. You must provide proof of OPM Qualification Review Board certification.

B. MANDATORY TECHNICAL QUALIFICATIONS (TQ): All applicants must submit written statements. Your narrative response must not exceed two (2) pages per TQ.

1. Describe your demonstrated experience in the practice of litigation at trial and appellate levels and before administrative bodies; and in a broad range of legal disciplines, including the Federal Tort claims act, the Freedom of Information Act, the Privacy Act, the federal Advisory Committee Act, Federal Appropriations Law and statutes and regulations applying to procurement contracts, grants, cooperative agreements, and agriculture research programs.

2. Describe your demonstrated experience in providing sound oral and written legal advice and counsel to senior executives and management officials; in analyzing complex legal problems; in making sound legal decisions; and in supervising and managing highly skilled attorneys and support staff.

To preview questions please click here.


Some of the benefits for which you are entitled to but not limited to are:

Federal Holidays

Annual & Sick Leave

Federal Employee Retirement System

Thrift Savings Plan

Federal Employees Health Benefits

Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program

Federal Employees Group Life Insurance

Flexible Spending Accounts

Federal Long Term Care Insurance

For more information on these and many other benefits, go to: http://www.opm.gov/insure/health/enrollment/new_employees.asp



Consideration for competitive selection for this position is open to all persons within the area of consideration who meet the basic qualifications. Race, color, age, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, political beliefs, religion, marital or family status, disability, and other non-merit factors will not be considered.

1. This position is covered under the post-employment restriction of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 (P.L. 95-521). This law also requires the selectee to file an Executive Personnel Financial Disclosure Report (Standard Form 278), within 30 days of appointment.

2. Applications sent in U.S. Government postage-paid envelope and submitted through Federal Agency courier services will not be considered.

3. Male applicants born after December 31, 1959, must be registered with the Selective Service System before they can be employed by an executive agency of the Federal government. This requirement does not apply to Agency employees appointed before November 8, 1985.

4. The 1993 Hatch Act Reform Amendments prohibit oral and written political recommendations for Federal jobs.

5. All application forms are subject to the provisions of the Privacy Act and become the property of USDA.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is an Equal Opportunity Employer. USDA prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or family status. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication or program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA’s TARGET Center at 202-720-2600 (voice and TDD).

Reasonable Accommodation: This agency provides reasonable accommodations to applicants with disabilities. If you need a reasonable accommodation for any part of the application and hiring process, please notify the agency at 202-720-0027. The decision on granting reasonable accommodation will be on a case-by-case basis.



Click here to apply for this position.

You can apply for this position via on-line submission. Your online application must include the following documents:

1. Resume

2. Responses to the Mandatory Technical Qualifications and Executive Core Qualifications.

3. Supporting Documentation (See required documents for more information)

Candidates who do not submit complete application packages as indicated will not be considered.

Please be sure to remove all PII (e.g. SSN & DOB) from all documents.

Spell out Acronyms the first time used.

Applicants who cannot apply on-line, please mail or fax applications to the Agency Contact listed in the vacancy announcement.

Critical Submission Requirements and Reminders

1. Application and supporting documentation will not be accepted via e-mail.

2. Please be sure to click both (FINISHED) buttons when completing your on-line application.

3. Our online application system is 100% compatible with Internet Explorer (IE) verisons 5.0 and above.



A complete application package will require the submission of:

1. Resume, which must include all of the information listed below.

Vacancy announcement number

Full name, mailing and email addresses, day and evening telephone numbers

Country of citizenship

Information about your paid and nonpaid work experience related to this position including; job title, duties and accomplishments , employer’s name and address, supervisor name and phone number, duration of employment, and salary and hrs per week

Educational information, including the name, city and state of colleges or universities attended, major as well as the type of degree received

Information about honors, awards, and special accomplishments

2. Responses to the Executive Core Qualifications

Submit a Supplemental Applicant Statement which addresses EACH of the ECQs separately. Please include your name and the vacancy announcement number on each page of the supplemental applicant statement. The purpose of this statement is to provide you, as an applicant, the opportunity to elaborate on your experience, training, and specifically, significant achievements which relates to the ECQs being used to identify the best qualified candidates for this vacancy. DO NOT simply repeat entries from other parts of your application package.

Please provide complete responses to the executive core qualifications. When addressing the five ECQs the total length of your statement must not exceed 10 pages (no more than 2 pages per ECQ) using 1 inch margins and a 12 point font.

An ECQ statement may include one or two examples of relevant experience. The number of examples is not as important as assuring that your experience matches the ECQ criteria, but please try to limit examples to a maximum of two to ensure a clear and concise narrative that flows.

Please provide your examples using the C-C-A-R Model(Challenge/Context/Action/Results), as described below:

a. Challenge: Describe a specific problem or goal.

b. Context: Describe the individuals and groups you worked with, and/or the environment in which you worked to tackle a particular challenge (e.g., clients, co-workers, members of Congress, shrinking budget, low morale.)

c. Action: Discuss the specific actions you took to address a challenge

d. Results: Give specific examples of the results of your actions. These accomplishments demonstrate the quality and effectiveness of your leadership skills. Examples of the CCAR model the preferred method of writing your ECQs can be found at: http://www.opm.gov/ses/references/GuidetoSESQuals_2010.pdf.

3. Responses to the Mandatory Technical Qualifications

Submit a Supplemental Narrative Statement which addresses EACH of the Mandatory Technical Qualifications individually. Your narrative responses must not exceed two (2) pages using 1 inch margins and a 12 point font per Technical Qualification.

4. Supporting Documentation

If you are a Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program graduate, submit proof of the Office of Personnel Management’s certification and a narrative statement addressing only the mandatory technical qualifications.

If you are a current or former SES member, submit documentation of SES status and a narrative statement addressing only the mandatory technical qualifications. For documentation, you must submit a copy of your Notification of Personnel Action (SF-50) showing your position, title, series, grade, and tenure.

Please be sure to include the announcement number on your application. Also, please omit your social security number from all pages of your application.

5. DO NOT submit any additional information, extraneous materials will not be considered.



Tonique Coley
Phone: 202-720-0027
Fax: 202-720-2774
Email: Tonique.Coley@dm.usda.gov
Agency Information:
Office of the General Counsel
US Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave SW
Rm. 323-W
Washington, DC
Fax: 202-720-2774


Applicants who meet the mandatory requirements in items A (Executive Core Qualifications), and B (Mandatory Technical Qualifications) above will be considered qualified for this position. Rating and ranking to determine the ‘best qualified’ will be conducted by a panel of experts and will be based upon consideration of the degree to which applicants meet the mandatory requirements as described in the announcement. Interviews and qualifications inquiries may be required.

The Executive Core Qualifications of the selectee are subject to prior approval by the Office of Personnel Management Qualifications Review Board (QRB). Unless you have already been certified by an OPM QRB in the past, your ECQs must be certified by an OPM QRB before appointment can occur. When reviewing Executive Core Qualifications Statements, the QRB is looking for experience as well as specific challenges, actions, and results.