Arlington National Cemetery's Superintendent is newest Army SES


By Courtney Dock

Arlington National Cemetery Public Affairs


The U.S. Army welcomed the newest member to its Senior Executive Service during an induction ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery March 2, 2017.

Katharine Kelley, superintendent, Arlington National Cemetery, took the oath of office during her SES pinning and induction ceremony, hosted by Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director, Army National Military Cemeteries.

Durham-Aguilera explained how selective it is to be an SES and the important role senior leaders play in the federal workforce.

“The Senior Executive Service is one half of one percent of the federal workforce,” said Durham-Aguilera. “SESs are flag officers equivalent. In the Army, with a little less than 500,000 civilians, only about 300 are SESs.”

She explained that as a senior advisor, SESs lead a cohesive team and provide long-term continuity through the combined strength of the military and civilian workforce.

Officiating the induction ceremony was Gerald O’Keefe, administrative assistant, Secretary of the Army.


“It’s a great day for Kate. It’s a great day for Arlington National Cemetery. And it’s a great day for the Army,” said O’Keefe. “You get promoted not based on past performance, but on future potential. Kate has shown that in so many different jobs.”

O’Keefe said he predicted early on Kelley’s eventual promotion to SES, stating she is professional, well-informed, calm, and ready for everything. She anticipates questions, anticipates problems, and her instincts in problem-solving make her a total package.

While thanking those in attendance Kelley said, “The reality is, no senior leader does anything without their team and without the group and the people who are out there doing it every day. And that’s what I see here today. It’s people who help make it happen.”

“There are three lessons I have learned throughout my career: One, be the kind of person who gets things done. Be a doer. Results matter. Two, look for the hard jobs. Don’t be afraid to take the tough ones,” said Kelley. “And finally, three, look around for mentors and people you want to be surrounded by.”

Kelley, a native of Sheffield, Massachusetts, is responsible for the complete operations of Arlington National Cemetery, encompassing 624 acres, nearly 3.5 million annual visitors, 180 primary staff, more than 7,000 annual burials, $25 million in construction, and a $71 million operating budget.

“I am absolutely humbled to be in this job, I am grateful to have this job, and I am absolutely honored,” said Kelley.


As superintendent, she serves as the Army liaison to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the American Battle Monuments commission, and the National Park Service to develop strategic partnerships, improve support to veterans and their families and enhance the visitor experience at Arlington. She is responsible for the strategic vision for the cemetery; directs with full authority all operational support to the burial and visitation missions; and serves as the foundation for all cemeteries managed across the Army.

Kelley holds a M.A. in National Security and Strategic Studies, an M.A. in International Relations from the University of Oklahoma, and a B.A. in Political Science from Villanova University.

Her recognitions include the Naval War College’s James D. Forrestal Award for Excellence in Force Planning; Meritorious Service Medal; Superior Civilian Service Medal; Army Commendation Medal; Army Achievement Medal; Joint Service Medal.

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Arlington National Cemetery
Induction Ceremony