Alumna Soars in Position at StratCom

Alumna Soars in Position at StratCom

By Sarah Smith, BA’07

As a member of the Senior Executive Service, Creighton alumna Kerry Kelley, BS’84, is one of the highest-ranking civilian leaders at U.S. Strategic Command (StratCom).

Located at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, StratCom is one of nine unified commands operated by the Department of Defense — with personnel from all four branches of the military. Its responsibilities range from space operations (such as military satellites) to global missile defense; cyberspace operations; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; global strike and strategic deterrence operations; and combating weapons of mass destruction.  

Kelley has worked at StratCom for nearly 30 years in various departments, including operations research, budget and communications. She entered the Senior Executive Service in 2007, and currently serves as director of Command Control Communications, director of the Joint Cyber Center and chief information officer. It’s intense work, but Kelley likes the challenge.

“I like the fast pace,” she says. “I do enjoy that.”

Kelley deals with a variety of communications and information issues involving cyber security, satellite communications, GPS information and capabilities, and global missile defense.

Most days begin with a 7 a.m. meeting to discuss world events of the past 12 hours and how they affect StratCom. She travels frequently, often to the Pentagon for meetings, and has recently been to Europe and Australia.

Kelley says one of the most challenging aspects of her work is keeping up with the rapidly evolving nature of cyber security and communications issues, and trying to anticipate those changes.

“More and more vulnerabilities in cyberspace are becoming more apparent,” she says. But it’s also rewarding work, she says, to play a role in the national security of the United States.

“It’s very meaningful work,” she says. “You know the work you’re doing is impacting some of the highest levels of government. I think that’s very rewarding.”

Kelley was involved in the $445 million Wideband Global SATCOM 7, an advanced military communications satellite that launched in July from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. She was on hand as the satellite blasted into space aboard a Delta IV rocket.

“It was incredibly satisfying,” she says, especially considering the commitment of so many people who worked on the project. “The people here are just awesome. You can just see their dedication.”

Kelley earned a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics from Creighton in 1984. She then earned a master’s degree in operations research from Northwestern University, before joining StratCom as an operations research analyst in 1985.

Kelley has earned several major awards and decorations for her service, including the Presidential Rank Award (2012), Air Force Special Act/Service Award (2006 and 2007), the Air Force Meritorious Civilian Service Award, the Air Force Exemplary Civilian Service Award, and numerous Air Force Superior Performance Awards.

She served as the StratCom representative to the Nuclear Weapons Council Senior Steering Group and was co-chair of the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review Force Structure Panel that contributed to the New START treaty, a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the U.S. and Russia.