Frank Minogue's journey to becoming an environmental attorney was shaped by his childhood in the D.C. area and a deep love for the great outdoors. Growing up in a family that valued nature, he developed a genuine appreciation for the environment through activities like camping, which fostered a passion that would stay with him throughout his life.
His early connection with environmental consciousness deepened during the onset of the environmental movement with the enactment of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in 1970.
Engaging with the Cub and Boy Scouts, he participated in a contest related to the new NEPA, designing posters and covers for its announcement. Though his entry didn't secure a win, this experience left a lasting impact on him.
While initially starting his academic journey in biology, his goal was always to become a lawyer. He saw biology as a way to enhance his understanding of environmental law. In case he didn't get into law school, he planned to work in environmental science instead. So, in his view, biology was a backup for his goal of pursuing a legal career.
A pivotal moment occurred during a "Math for Science Majors" class, where he expressed his desire to become an attorney in an icebreaker activity. This led to a discussion with his professor, a former attorney, who advised him to “change his major, obtain a degree, work anywhere to gain experience, and then apply to law school.” Following this guidance, Minogue transitioned into sociology, paving the way for his leap into the legal realm.
Entering law school marked a crucial juncture; and as he progressed, he found himself at a crossroads.
Contemplating continuing an unsatisfactory job in a private law firm or exploring a potential career in the military, Minogue faced a major decision. Being newly married, his wife was not too keen on him joining the military initially, but the universe had other ideas and provided signs nudging him in that direction.
He discovered a transformative opportunity for a job in an alumni newsletter for the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and called to get information sent to him at home.
When the package arrived, his wife called him at work asking about the package as she was still against him joining the military. He told her to look it over and if she didn’t think it was a good idea, to just throw it away and he would never mention it again. Later that night, when he came home from work, the package was resting on the table, accompanied by a sticky note that said, “Let’s go for it." This simple yet profound message, now preserved in their USAF achievements scrapbook, captures the pivotal moment that set the course for his military journey.
Moving forward with the USAF application, he had a conversation with one of his law school professors who was a retired Judge Advocate General (JAG).
The professor presented him with a choice between the USAF or the U.S. Navy because he would only write one reference letter. Needing some clarity about his decision, Minogue decided to go to the gym. Coincidentally he found a locker key engraved with "go AF, it's a great way of life." Striking up a conversation with a fellow gym-goer, he discovered the man was a member of the USAF, solidifying Frank's decision to pursue a career in the service. Thus, he began his military career with a direct commission into the USAF JAG, as a first lieutenant on July 18, 1991, after two years in a private practice law firm.
Minogue’s USAF assignments were diverse and across continents.
They ranged from Royal Air Force Upper Heyford, England, where he served as the Chief of Claims, Chief of Environmental Law, Chief of Justice, and as the Area Defense Counsel; to Malmstrom Air Force Base (AFB) in Great Falls, Montana, where he served as the Chief of Military Justice and the Chief of Civil Law, which included environmental law and government contracts.
His USAF career also included assignments with Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) in Denver, teaching at the USAF Academy in Colorado Springs, and serving as Deputy Staff Judge Advocate at F.E. Warren AFB in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Transitioning from his USAF roles, Minogue entered civilian service, joining the Department of Labor, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, working in discrimination law, investigating federal contractors for potential discriminatory practices, he spent five years in the San Antonio office before transferring to the Denver Office in 2011. Then returned to DCMA in 2012, to work on major federal contracts, including space launch systems.
As plans were set and his career thrived, life's unpredictability marked a significant turning point.
In 2015, he suffered a stroke and took a medical disability retirement. While temporarily losing the ability to walk, talk, and engage in other daily activities would be a challenge for anyone to overcome, he was not deterred.
He embarked on a remarkable journey of rehabilitation, determined not to let it beat him. Learning to use these abilities all over again, his resilience and resolve was glaringly obvious as he pushed himself to regain what was lost. Finally, after hard fought battles, Minogue joined the Office of Counsel at USAEC in 2020.
At USAEC, his initial support duties involved NEPA, but shifted to a critical area of need, compliance. In the restoration area of compliance, he focused on cleanup and compliance in the Midwest and West/Pacific regions, addressing numerous National Priority List (NPL) sites. His responsibilities involved navigating the intricacies of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). In his role, Minogue meticulously reviewed proposed plans, decision documents, and conducted comprehensive five-year reviews, evaluating the effectiveness of both CERCLA and RCRA initiatives.
“Frank is the keystone of our office, always willing to lend a hand to his teammates and help out anyone he can,” said Lorielle Gutting, supervisor and Chief Counsel. “He’s well-respected by his colleagues, clients and the command, and additionally he is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met.”
Notably, Frank's expertise proved invaluable in steering projects in the right direction.
One of his favorite projects involved assisting Fort Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska, with an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). When the project commenced, it was stuck, facing significant challenges, but he dedicated himself to ensure it started on the right path. With a CERCLA issue hindering progress, his experience and meticulous leadership became a guiding force, resolving lingering questions, untangling complexities, and providing the necessary expertise to propel the project forward.
“We thank him for his even-keeled attitude that he brought to the team,” said Col. Matthew F. Kelly, USAEC commander. “We are grateful for the fact that we got to serve with him.”
Reflecting on his career which will conclude on Nov. 30, 2023, Minogue expresses profound gratitude for the opportunity to collaborate with dedicated professionals at USAEC.
He acknowledges the tremendous learning experience in environmental law, particularly in NEPA and restoration, at an elevated level that was unavailable in his professional journey before. The ability to contribute to major projects and be a part of impactful environmental initiatives made his time at USAEC truly remarkable. He holds these moments close, recognizing them as transformative and memorable aspects that will be cherished in the years to come. He sums up all experiences in one phrase, “This is my dream job.”
As he leaves USAEC, he shares valuable insights and life lessons he's gained during his time with the organization.
“Always ask questions. Look for opportunities to learn something new,” said Minogue. "We have extremely talented professionals here, and it's possible to learn so much. Also, take the time to share what you know; we are building our future together. I hope I have done at least a little to help some of the younger generations learn a little bit, because they’re our future. That has always been a big part of my goal.”
Post-retirement, Minogue plans to focus on writing endeavors, mainly completing a science fiction trilogy, and getting shorter fiction pieces published. The demands of a full-time job stalled these creative pursuits, but now, with the luxury of time, he aims to immerse himself in writing.
Alongside his literary pursuits, he plans to indulge in more travel and dive into his passion for complex board games, moving beyond the conventional choices. “Not like Monopoly, more complex, but no, not like Risk. It's complicated,” Minogue jokes.