ADR Program Summary

On 22 June 2007, then-Acting Secretary of the Army Pete Geren issued the Army Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) policy encouraging the use of ADR as appropriate to resolve disputes as early as possible, as inexpensively as possible, and at the lowest organizational level. To implement this policy, the Secretary of the Army designated the Principal Deputy General Counsel of the Army as the Army Dispute Resolution Specialist (ADRS), and tasked the ADRS with several responsibilities, including submission and execution of the Army ADR program budget, identification and elimination of unnecessary barriers to ADR, providing ADR and negotiation training for Army personnel, and ensuring sufficient resources to facilitate the use of ADR across a broad spectrum of disputes. In January 2008 the General Counsel stood up the Army ADR Program. The program consolidates Army ADR policy and practice under one roof at the Departmental level, while leaving activities and components free to execute ADR programs that are consistent with their missions and requirements.

The Army ADR Program consists of two major dispute areas: workplace disputes (e.g., complaints of discrimination, employee grievances, labor-management disputes), and contract disputes (e.g., government contract claims, appeals, and protests lodged against the Army or Army subordinate components). ADR support for each area is managed by an attorney specializing in the substantive law and ADR processes and techniques used in resolving disputes in that area. In addition, the ADR Program Office supplies ADR and negotiation training to various audiences to the extent resources permit.

ADR is a collection of methods or techniques, generally informal and collaborative in nature, for resolving disputes without resort to litigation. All ADR processes share some general attributes, including self-determination of the parties (i.e., parties themselves exercise greater control over choice of process and outcome than in litigation), assistance of a neutral third-party, and confidentiality. The informality and voluntariness of ADR proceedings almost invariably result in faster, less expensive outcomes than litigation. For that reason, Congress in 1996 enacted the Administrative Dispute Resolution Act (ADRA) of 1996, directing agencies to establish ADR policies and programs. Although there are unquestionably “issues in controversy” that are not suitable for resolution by ADR (and the ADRA catalogues several such cases), the large majority of disputes, particularly in workplace and contracts, do not present the circumstances where a final judgment through litigation is necessary for resolution. In these cases, both parties have an interest in achieving resolution in less time, at lower cost, with greater control over the process and the outcome, while preserving crucial relationships.

The primary focus of the ADR program is to establish and deliver ADR training programs for a variety of Army personnel and disciplines, both independently and in collaboration with other established DoD ADR programs. We have in place several training programs for leaders, attorneys, civilian personnel specialists, EEO officers, acquisition personnel, and Army civilian employees, to increase ADR awareness, teach good negotiation skills using an “interest-based” model, and train a cadre of Army mediators who can serve as third-party neutrals in a broad spectrum of disputes.

In addition to training, the ADR Program Office renders direct third-party neutral assistance in workplace disputes involving HQDA personnel and organizations. It provided substantive guidance to the Army EEO Compliance and Complaints Review Directorate in rewriting the ADR provisions in the Army’s regulatory guidance for EEO complaints, provided new ADR language for administrative reconsideration cases for NSPS employees, and is providing ADR procedures for a new Army administrative grievance program. The office is also engaged in several exciting initiatives to enhance the delivery of ADR services and training that will benefit all Army personnel.