VICKSBURG, MISS., June 3, 2014 – Brigadier General John S. Kem has been appointed by President Obama to serve on the Mississippi River Commission.
Brig. Gen. Kem serves as the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Northwestern Division, a position he has held since July 2013. In this position, he oversees an annual program of more than $3 billion in civil works, environmental restoration and military construction in more than a dozen states, primarily within the Columbia and Missouri river basins. He also oversees the operations of district commands in Portland, Seattle, Walla Walla, Omaha and Kansas City, Mo.
Previously, Brig. Gen. Kem was the Director of Engineering, NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012, Commander of the Europe District of the Army Corps of Engineers from 2008 to 2011, and Commander of the 16th Armored Engineer Battalion, 1st Armored Division in Iraq from 2003 to 2005. His awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, and the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster. Brig. Gen. Kem received a B.S. from the U.S. Military Academy, an M.B.A. from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and an M.S. in environmental engineering from Northwestern University.
The Corps of Engineers members of the Mississippi River Commission provide representation and leadership from the nation’s three largest watersheds:
- Mississippi River
- Missouri River
- Ohio River
All MRC members are nominated and appointed by the President of the United States.
The commission was created by an Act of Congress on June 28, 1879, to plan and provide for the general improvement of the entire length of the Mississippi River. This includes improving navigation, preventing destructive floods and facilitating commerce. The presidential appointees consist of three officers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a representative from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and three civilians, two of whom must be civil engineers.
The commission itself is an advisory body. Its general duties include recommending policy and work programs, studying and reporting on modifications or changes to the Mississippi River and Tributaries project, commenting on matters authorized by law, making inspection trips, and holding public hearings that facilitate exchanges of viewpoints and ideas between the public and the MRC. Since 1879 the commission has been “listening, inspecting, partnering and engineering” with water resource interests in a watershed that is influenced by the drainage of over 41 percent of the United States and two provinces of Canada.
Brig. Gen. John S. Kem assumed command of the Northwestern Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, July 15, 2013. In this position, he oversees an annual program of more than $3 billion in civil works, environmental restoration and military construction in more than a dozen states, primarily within the Columbia and Missouri river basins.
As Division Commander, he is responsible for providing guidance and direction to five operating district commands located in Portland, Ore., Seattle and Walla Walla, Wash., Kansas City, Mo., and Omaha, Neb., with a combined professional workforce of nearly 4,800. Key missions include support to military installations and civilian communities throughout the region, managing the nation’s water resources infrastructure for economic growth and environmental sustainability, timely response to natural disasters, and strengthening national security.
Prior to coming to NWD, Brig. Gen. Kem served as the Chief of the Programs Division, Office of the Chief of Legislative Liaison, for the U.S. Army.
Brig. Gen. Kem was born in Chicago, Ill., and commissioned in the Corps of Engineers after graduating as a distinguished cadet from the U.S. Military Academy with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1985. As a junior officer he served in the 16th Engineer BN, 1st Armored Division and in the 1st Squadron, 1st US Cavalry as the Patrol Leader for the VII Corps team that won the 1988 Boeselager NATO Cavalry Cup. From 1989-1993 he served in the 307th En BN, 82nd Airborne Division including service during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, command of A/307th from 1991-1992 and service in the G-3 Training, 82nd Airborne Division.
From 1993-1995 Brig. Gen. Kem attended the Kellogg Business School, Northwestern University with follow-on duty as an assistant professor of economics and Executive Officer in the Department of Social Sciences at West Point. From 1998-2000, he served as the S3, 10th Engineer Battalion at Fort Stewart, Ga., and later as the Engineer Brigade S3.
In 2001, Brig. Gen. Kem was selected for a Congressional Fellowship and served for one year as a staff fellow on the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittees on Defense and Military Construction. He later served as a Congressional Budget Liaison in the Office of the ASA Financial Management and Comptroller.
Brig. Gen. Kem commanded the 16th Armored Engineer BN, 1st Armored Division from June 2003-June 2005. He led the battalion for 13 months during combat operations in Baghdad and Karbala, Iraq. After command, Brig. Gen. Kem served as a military assistant and speech writer for the Secretary of the Army and later as the XO to the Director, Joint IED Defeat Organization.
From 2008-2011 Brig. Gen. Kem commanded the Europe District of the Army Corps of Engineers responsible for construction and engineering support for EUCOM and AFRICOM. From 2011 to 2012, Brig. Gen. Kem was deployed to Afghanistan as the Director of Engineering, NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan, and responsible for a $10.5 billion program to build facilities for the Afghan Army and Police.
Brig. Gen. Kem holds a master’s degree from Kellogg Business School and a master’s degree in Environmental Engineering from Northwestern University. His awards and decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Senior Parachutist Wings, Pathfinder Badge, Combat Action Badge and Ranger Tab. Col. Kem is a registered Professional Engineer in the state of Virginia and a Chartered Financial Analyst. Col. Kem is married and has three children.