Professor Dickinson Receives Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service

Laura A. Dickinson
October 31, 2017

In July 2017, Professor Laura A. Dickinson, the Oswald Symister Colclough Research Professor and Professor of Law, received the U.S. Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service to honor her year as Special Counsel to the General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

Professor Dickinson provided expert counsel on a variety of issues related to the law of war and was instrumental in resolving issues for the December 2016 update to the DoD Law of War Manual and other matters that arose within the law of war working group. She helped write speeches for the General Counsel, including a speech about applying the law of targeting to the modern battlefield given at New York University in November 2016. Professor Dickinson provided insight and advice on many additional issues, including targeting, detention, and international criminal justice, as well as issues related to the international criminal court and accountability for ISIS atrocities. She also helped draft and shape views letters from the DoD General Counsel to the Solicitor General related to litigation before the U.S. Supreme Court. Professor Dickinson's research on legal issues related to potential policies regarding service members' social media use enabled senior leaders to shape policy for publicly sensitive matters.

"My time working at the DoD was incredibly rewarding," Professor Dickinson said. "On a day to day basis, I dealt with the issues of international law and national security law that I see in the casebooks I use in class. I was also thrilled to work alongside talented government attorneys, both civilian and military, and to be part of a collaborative team. It was very meaningful to be part of a larger enterprise." Professor Dickinson added that she enjoyed the collegial atmosphere and found the work to be inspiring, saying, "I look forward to taking the experience I had and sharing it with my students. I hope to maintain many of the relationships I developed during my time at DoD, and to bring some of the people I worked with at DoD to GW to serve as guest speakers.  These relationships could also lead to opportunities for our GW Law students interested in the field."

The Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service is the second highest award presented by the Secretary of Defense to non-career Federal employees, private citizens, and foreign nationals for contributions, assistance, or support to Department of Defense functions.

"I was touched and honored to receive this award. It was a privilege to serve our country in this way. I was also honored to receive an American flag that was flown over the Pentagon, which I will cherish," Professor Dickinson said.