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From (Stormy) Sea to Shining Sea

Tiffany Alford

Tiffany Alford’s career path is a study in contrasts.  It began when Alford, ’09, clerked for Judge Nan Famular in the Superior Court of New Jersey’s Family Court in Camden, immersed in the roiling emotions that accompany divorce, custody battles and domestic violence.

“You’re seeing really good people in their worst moments,” Alford recalled.  “It could be really challenging some days. You really are dealing with people’s emotions, with love taking a back seat to fights and legal issues.”

From there, Alford moved to the Veteran’s Administration in Eatontown, NJ, where she worked as a staff attorney within the administration’s Office of General Counsel.  

The change could not have been greater:  Alford went from high drama in the courtroom to the careful scrutiny of government contracts.

At the VA, Alford worked to ensure that the agency was complying with federal regulations as it approved contracts for information technology services. 

“Nothing felt like life or death,” Alford said, though she was well aware that the software and components under review could make a huge difference for veterans seeking access to benefits to which they were entitled.

That changed in May, 2016, when Alford moved to the Naval Sea Systems Command, based at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Philadelphia, becoming a bigger fish in a smaller pond of a half-dozen attorneys.  

As assistant counsel, Alford is still focused primarily on government contracts, but she also handles ethics issues and hopes to be cross-trained in civilian personnel law.

“It’s more like a one-stop shop,” Alford said. “I feel the difference.”

With engineers making up most of the personnel at NAVSEA, its mission is to keep ships and submarines in the water and able to safely return. 

The burdens in the new job are greater, Alford said, because there are fewer attorneys to manage the workload and there are multiple sets of regulations that apply to contracts at NAVSEA. Now Alford must ensure that contracts comply not only with Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), but also with the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) and with the Navy Marine Corps Acquisition Regulation Supplement.

Advising military personnel on contract decisions has added to the intensity of Alford’s new job.

“Even though I grew up in a predominantly military family and I’m familiar with military culture, it’s different when you go into a briefing with a Navy captain,” she said.

Looking back, Alford is still a bit surprised to be an attorney and credits Senior Associate Dean Kevin Oates as well as her classmates for keeping her in law school.

“I hated law school and was going to leave – I was so over it,” Alford recalled.  “Oates was very instrumental in talking me off the ledge.  My closest friends are people I graduated with. Having the experience of being the inaugural class really brought us together.  I’m still very appreciative. I never will forget the experience I had there and what it taught me about what the world can be.”