The opinion of the court was delivered by: Roberts, District Judge.
Before this Court are defendant's motion to dismiss, or in the
alternative, for summary judgment, and plaintiffs cross-motion
for summary judgment. At issue is the extent to which plaintiff
is bound to fulfill a service obligation to the Department of the
Army (the "Army") which plaintiff incurred by pursuing a Ph.D. at
the Army's expense. Plaintiff contends that the Army should be
enjoined from requiring him to serve an additional six years on
active duty because his service agreement permitted him to resign
voluntarily from the Army so long as he reimbursed the Army for
various educational expenses. The Army counters that plaintiffs
request for declaratory and injunctive relief should be denied
either because: (1) plaintiffs claim raises a non-justiciable
military personnel matter, or (2) plaintiffs service agreement
unambiguously gives the Army sole discretion over whether
plaintiff could withdraw from his service obligation.
Because I conclude that the Army has put forth the only
reasonably objective interpretation of the service agreement,
defendant's motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary
judgment is granted and plaintiffs cross-motion for summary
judgment is denied.
Plaintiff has been an active duty commissioned officer in the
United States Army for twelve years. He has ascended to the rank
of major and holds both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree
in architecture. By all accounts, he has an exemplary military
As part of the application process, Army regulations required
plaintiff to submit a completed DA Form 3838. See Army Regulation
("AR") 351-3 § 4.4A(a)(1) (1988). DA Form 3838 contains the
following "Obligatory Statement:"
I understand and agree that if selected for training
any tender of resignation or request for release from
active duty on my part will be disapproved until the
total period of obligated active service is completed,
except for the convenience of the Government or in
case of extreme compassionate circumstances. I
understand that my service obligation will be computed
in accordance with AR 351-3. . . .
DA Form 3838 at Block 55 (Ex. B to Pl.'s Mem.Supp.Summ.J.).
Plaintiffs application for enrollment in the Program included DA
Form 3838, but neither he nor an authorized Army representative
ever actually signed the form. See id. at Blocks 57, 61. The form
was apparently submitted on his behalf by someone at his command.
See Second Castle Decl. at ¶ 4. The Army then processed
On November 5, 1995, plaintiff received a Statement of Service
Obligation ("SSO") in the mail along with a letter congratulating
him on being admitted into the Program. See id. at ¶ 5. Two
days later, plaintiff signed the SSO. See id. The SSO contains
two provisions of particular relevance to this dispute. The
first, located in paragraph 1, reads:
1. In accordance with Chapter 10, para 10-3(2), AR
351-3, I understand that by participating in the
[Program], I will incur an active duty obligation
(ADSO) of three times the length of the education
or training for the first year of [sic] portion
thereof. Participation for periods of education or
training in excess of 1 year will result in an ADSO
of three times the length of the training, until a
maximum of six years is incurred. This adso [sic]
commences upon completion or termination of my
education/training. All provisions of AR 351-3 apply.
SSO at ¶ 1 (Ex. A to Pl.'s Mem.Supp.Summ.J.). Plaintiff thus
promised to incur an Active Duty Service Obligation ("ADSO") of a
maximum of six years in return for the Army's promise to pay for
his advanced schooling.
The second provision at issue is contained in the third
paragraph of the SSO. It reads:
3. I understand that in the event I voluntarily
withdraw, or as a result of misconduct, fail to
complete the required ADSO, I will reimburse the
United States the cost of advance education, which
includes tuition, books, supplies, and other costs
clearly identified as paid by the United States, IAW