AUSTIN, Texas –
Before he became an award-winning lawyer, Ronald Sullivan was a proud military brat. Born in London, he grew up primarily in San Antonio, the city where his father – an Air Force administrative specialist – met his mother, a lifelong Texan.
Sullivan’s mother and father in London in 1970 with baby Ronald Sullivan.
Sullivan began to consider a career as a lawyer in high school, around the same time he joined JROTC. While his academic path took him all over the country, including to the District of Columbia for a bachelor of business administration (information systems) degree from Howard University, to Kansas for a J.D. from the University of Kansas School of Law and to Pennsylvania for a master of strategic studies degree from the U.S. Army War College, he eventually found his way back to Texas, specifically to the state’s capital city of Austin.
Today, Sullivan is chief of Acquisition, Personnel and Ethics Law at Army Futures Command (AFC), in the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate. His role is pivotal to ensuring that the command’s many modernization initiatives can proceed expeditiously while also adhering to complex legal requirements.
“This is the best job in the whole world,” Sullivan said, referencing the diversity of his day-to-day tasks and the strong support and acumen of his team as influential factors in his overall job enthusiasm.
Sullivan is also highly motivated by the impact his team’s work has on big-picture Army modernization goals.
“I get to affect strategic decisions and actual procurements every day, knowing that my input will actually affect a future Soldier’s life – in 2028, 2035 – and meet the AFC mission,” Sullivan explained, highlighting that many of the opportunities he encounters at the command represent the pinnacle of acquisition practice.
Sullivan joined AFC in March 2019 as the first permanent civilian lawyer hired by the newly minted command. In addition to providing expert legal advice to headquarters leadership and subordinate organizations, Sullivan guides and mentors other attorneys and legal professionals supporting AFC, particularly those working on matters pertaining to acquisition, personnel, intellectual property and ethics.
He brings to his role more than 26 years of experience as a lawyer, including 16 years practicing acquisition law while also serving as a Reserve judge advocate; he began his career by serving for approximately 10 years as an active-duty Army judge advocate.
Sullivan’s assignments as an active-duty officer included working at the JAG office at Fort Drum, the U.S. Army Trial Defense Service at Fort Meade and in leading trial attorney roles at the U.S. Army Legal Services Center and the Office of General Counsel at the Pentagon, where he served as trial team chief for cases filed against Guantanamo detainees.
Sullivan’s promotion from first lieutenant to captain at Fort Drum, April 1997.
As a Reserve officer, Sullivan fulfilled leadership positions at legal operations detachments and Reserve commands in Texas, Louisiana, Utah, Illinois and Maryland, including at the Army Reserve Medical Command and the 377th Theater Sustainment Command.
As a civilian employee of the federal government, he worked for the Department of Justice’s Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Section, tackling high-level wire tap and drug intelligence unit cases, and for the Office of General Counsel at the Department of Veterans Affairs in their headquarters Procurement Law Division, working on IT-related supply and service related procurement programs.
Sullivan, who continues to serve as an Army Reserve brigadier general, is consistently eager to apply his wealth of legal and military knowledge in a way that empowers and galvanizes his teammates – leaders, peers and subordinates alike.
At AFC, “I get to shape early decisions,” Sullivan said. “Many leaders may know what they want to do but not know exactly how to do it. With the arsenal of tools in the acquisition arena, sometimes I can assist in getting the request or the requirement that they’re driving toward on the right type of acquisition vehicle.”
“With determination and with not always thinking of historical, traditional tools, my lawyers and I can help bring something about, and do it with the Army’s best interest and the taxpayer’s best interest in mind,” he added.
One of his team’s biggest projects thus far at AFC has been providing the legal input and advice necessary to establish the Army Software Factory, a one-of-a-kind incubator for Soldier software developers.
“There were probably 10 different ways to bring the Software Factory into fruition, but the way that we did bring it in was probably the most flexible, the most creative,” he reflected.
Sullivan’s contributions and excellence were recently recognized by the Austin Black Business Journal, which named him one of its 2021 Top Ten Central Texas Super Lawyers.
As for what Sullivan thinks makes for an exemplary lawyer, particularly at a four-star command?
“A level of commitment, a level of flexibility, a level of understanding a more strategic vantage point,” he said.
“Giving leaders and commanders tools to accomplish what they want, and not walking in with a binary yes/no mentality, I think is what’s really important.”