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.
USACE, June 4, 2014; Image: USACE