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Rear Admiral James M. Kelly serves as the Assistant Commandant for Reserve at Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington, D.C., where he provides operationally capable and ready Reserve personnel to support Coast Guard surge and mobilization requirements worldwide. Admiral Kelly most recently led the Coast Guard’s 2020-2021 Presidential transition effort as the Senior Component Accountable Official where he represented the Coast Guard to the Department of Homeland Security and to the Federal Administration. Admiral Kelly directs a team of enterprise-wide experts in providing transition details to the Department and to the Administration regarding the Service’s missions and requirements.
Admiral Kelly was earlier called to active duty as the Director of the U. S. Coast Guard – Defense Innovation Unit Detachment Team, where he led the establishment of Coast Guard’s inaugural presence at the Department of Defense innovation consortium. Earlier he led the Reserve Component Governance Team, which resulted in the first-ever dedicated Assistant Commandant for Reserve and the wholesale restructuring of the Coast Guard Reserve executive governance; the Coast Guard’s National Capital Region Consolidation Project; the Maritime Border Security Division; and also the Maritime Enforcement Specialist Implementation Team. In his Reserve capacity, Admiral Kelly was deployed in response to Hurricane Maria, to Port-au-Prince following the Haiti Earthquake, to the Deepwater Horizon-Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
Enlisting in the Coast Guard Reserve in 1977, Admiral Kelly began his career as a mechanic on a 44’ motor lifeboat and served at search and rescue stations. Upon receiving his commission, Admiral Kelly served as a Marine Safety Office Officer of the Day and Command Duty Officer, an Investigation Officer, and later as a boat operations chief, passenger-vessel inspector, and a Liaison Officer. His other Reserve positions include Commanding Officer of the Coast Guard Reserve Unit – U. S. Southern Command, Senior Reserve Officer of Coast Guard District Nine, and as the Senior Reserve Officer of Sector Houston-Galveston.
In addition to the Coast Guard Reserve, Mr. Kelly served in his civilian capacity as the Special Assistant to the President of the United States for Intergovernmental Affairs, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs with the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and as a Member of the Maryland General Assembly. Additionally, he has commercial banking experience and served as a State Trooper with the Maryland State Police.
Admiral Kelly earned a Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U. S. Naval War College, and is a graduate of the U. S. Joint Forces Staff College – Joint and Combined Warfighting School-Hybrid. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business and Management as a graduate of the University of Maryland – University College, having completed his studies through night school while serving in the Maryland State Police. Admiral Kelly is married to Melissa Kelly, nee Malanoksi, and the couple have six children.