Susan Kelly helps ease service members back into civilian life

The move from military service to civilian life can be a difficult transition for many service members.

It’s the job of the Defense Department’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) to help make that move as smooth as possible.

Susan Kelly, who heads up TAP, introduced sweeping changes to the 20-year program, reaching out to other agencies and providing a wider swath of assistance to the 200,000 service members who leave the military every year.

“Susan has...

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The move from military service to civilian life can be a difficult transition for many service members.

It’s the job of the Defense Department’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) to help make that move as smooth as possible.

Susan Kelly, who heads up TAP, introduced sweeping changes to the 20-year program, reaching out to other agencies and providing a wider swath of assistance to the 200,000 service members who leave the military every year.

“Susan has changed how DOD thinks about the transition process,” said Teresa Gerton, deputy assistant secretary for Veterans’ Employment and Training Services at the Department of Labor. “It’s gone from, ‘You’re transitioning in six weeks — good luck!’ to ‘From the minute that someone puts a uniform on, we have to be talking to them about someday, sooner or later, you’re going to be a civilian again, so let’s make sure you are prepared for that transition.’”

For her efforts in improving the process of service members transitioning back to civilian life, the Partnership for Public Service named Kelly a finalist for the 2015 Management Excellence Medal. The award honors federal employees who demonstrate superior leadership and management.

Getting to know Susan Kelly

Federal News Radio asked each of the Sammies finalists questions about themselves. Here are Kelly’s responses:

What are the best “words of wisdom” I’ve ever received and who gave it to me?

“Be who you are and be that well!” The Sisters at Georgetown Visitation introduced me to this quote and it gives me great freedom!

Who is your greatest role model and why?

While at DoD, I have been fortunate to work with several remarkable people and at the top of the list is Dr. David Chu, the former Under Secretary of Defense. First, he’s brilliant! More important, I saw Dr. Chu always treat everyone with genuine respect, even in the most contentious circumstances. That combination made him a formidable presence in the Pentagon. He is an incredible person and, to this day, I still seek his counsel.

What is the last thing I read?

The Boys in The Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics”   by Daniel James Brown

What’s next on my reading list?

I have two that I need to get to: “The Road to Character” by David Brooks and Fareed Zakaria’s “In Defense of A Liberal Education“. But, I’ll be on a reading pause for the next several weeks. Instead I’ll be watching the 2015 Women’s World Cup games in the evenings and cheering from the stands in Canada! Go USA!

Who would I like to have lunch with and why?

Good question! I would like to have a conversation with Neil deGrasse Tyson, the “urban astrophysicist” as he calls himself. I just can’t get a solid handle on that “time/space” continuum, among other “cosmic quandaries”.   It would definitely be an extended lunch!


The Management Excellence Medal is just one of the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (Sammies) presented annually by the Partnership for Public Service. View a photo gallery of all the Sammies nominees.