Karen Durham-Aguilera, P.E., is the Director of Contingency Operations and Office of Homeland Security, Headquarters, U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. A member of the Senior Executive Service, she is responsible for leadership of the USACE Homeland Security missions in support of the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of the Army, and the Department of Defense. She serves as the Program manager for all USACE efforts to assist Federal, state and local emergency management and response organizations with mitigation, planning, training, and exercises necessary to provide capabilities to respond to any emergency or disaster, including a terrorist incident involving weapons of mass destruction as well as other natural or manmade hazards. The Directorate of Contingency Operations provides command and control of USACE civil and military contingency operations, leads the development of command contingency doctrine, maintains readiness, provides oversight of contingency program development and execution and develops and publishes contingency plans. Ms. Durham-Aguilera’s portfolio also includes leading USACE efforts in flood risk management and critical water resources infrastructure resilience.
Durham-Aguilera was most recently Director of Task Force Hope in New Orleans, Louisiana, an element of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Mississippi Valley Division. She was responsible for development and execution of the Corps’ $14.6 billion hurricane protection system work in New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and the long-term planning of coastal restoration and hurricane damage reduction.
In 2006, Durham-Aguilera served as the Director of Programs for the Corps’ Northwestern Division where she was responsible for $3.5 billion in civil works and military programs that included hydroelectric, navigation, flood damage reduction, and endangered species recovery projects, in an area that covered about 25 percent of the continental United States.
In 2005, Durham-Aguilera served as the Director of Reconstruction Programs, Project and Contracting office (PCO) in Baghdad, Iraq. She was responsible for planning, coordination, contracting acquisition and execution of nearly 3,200 projects spanning all construction sectors throughout Iraq with a workforce from all branches of the armed forces, multi-national civilians and Iraqi professionals.
A registered professional engineer in the state of Louisiana, Durham-Aguilera holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master's degree in civil (geotechnical) engineering, both from the University of Louisville. Prior to her assignment to the Northwestern Division, Durham-Aguilera served as Chief, Construction-Operations Division, at the Corps’ Sacramento District. After early career assignments in New Orleans, Louisiana, she served in numerous engineering positions in the United States and abroad, including project engineer, resident engineer and area engineer.
Recognitions include the Silver Order and Bronze Order of the DeFleury Medal, Joint Civilian Service, Meritorious Service, Superior Civilian Service Awards and Commander’s Awards. Durham-Aguilera was the Corps of Engineers’ 1990 Southwestern Division Engineer of the Year and 1993 Federal Engineer of the Year. She is also a recipient of the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Global War on Terrorism, and a 2008 recipient of the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Service.