JAG Corps announces law school programs

By 1st Lt. Chris Bailey: 27th SOW Legal Office

Applications for the Funded Legal Education Program (FLEP) and Excess Leave Program (ELP) will be accepted from Jan. 1, 2012 through Mar. 1, 2012. Interested officers are encouraged to compete. The number of FLEP and ELP applicants selected in any academic year is based upon the needs of the U.S. Air Force.

“Air Force commanders are entitled to advice from legal advisers who can see the ‘big picture’ and capture the commander’s intent,” said Maj. Mark McKiernan, Deputy Staff Judge Advocate, 27th Special Operations Wing. “This is particularly important within AFSOC where our operators are called upon to accomplish critical, often sensitive, missions while working in a joint or multinational environment.”

“The FLEP and ELP help supply the Joint Advocate General’s Corps with officers who have the military experience needed to see the ‘big picture’ and who can bring more than their legal training to the fight,” McKiernan explained.

Air Force JAGs provide a vast array of services for the command they support, he said. In addition to prosecuting and defending clients brought before courts-martial, JAG officers routinely participate in nearly every facet of the Air Force mission, including developing and acquiring weapons systems, ensuring availability of airspace and ranges, consulting with commanders about how use of force is employed in armed conflict, and assisting commanders in the day-to-day running of military installations around the world.

“The need for JAG officers with a wide breadth of experience is most apparent in the deployed environment,” said McKiernan. “While deployed, a JAG may be called upon to give advice on diverse issues from reviewing deployed contracts to advising on how to accomplish a mission in compliance with the law of war or helping establish the rule of law in the host nation.”

FLEP and ELP provide two different routes for active-duty officers interested in entering the JAG Corps. The FLEP is a paid legal studies program for active-duty Air Force commissioned officers and is an assignment action. Participants receive full pay, allowances, and tuition. FLEP applicants must have between two and six years active duty service, enlisted or commissioned, and must be in the pay grade O-3 or lower as of the day they begin law school.

The FLEP is subject to tuition limitations. Positions may be limited due to overall funding availability. The Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) establishes the tuition limit. Academic Year 2011 was set at approximately $16,000 per year, but this amount may change each year.

The ELP is an unpaid legal studies program for Air Force officers. ELP participants do not receive pay and allowances but remain on active duty for retirement eligibility and benefits purposes. ELP applicants must have between two and ten years active duty service and must be in the pay grade O-3 or below as of the first day of law school.

Both the FLEP and ELP programs require attendance at an American Bar Association accredited law school. Upon graduation and admission to practice law in the highest court of any state, territory of the United States, or a federal court, candidates are eligible for designation as judge advocates.

To be considered for FLEP or ELP, applicants must complete all application forms, apply to at least one ABA accredited law school (acceptance into law school is not required at the time of application for FLEP/ELP), receive their Law School Admissions Test results, and interview with a Staff Judge Advocate by Feb. 15, 2012. Officers must provide a letter of conditional release from their current career field. Selection for both programs is competitive.

Applications meet a selection board in early March. Selections are made based on a review of the application package using a “whole person” concept. The total number of applicants selected for any academic year is based on the needs of the Air Force.

AFI 51-101, Judge Advocate Accession Program, Chapters 2 and 3, discuss the FLEP and ELP. For more information and application materials, visit http://www.airforce.com/jag, or contact 1st Lt. Chris Bailey, legal office recruiting point of contact, at christopher.bailey2@cannon.af.mil