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Col. John G. Keliher, Arms-Control Pioneer, Dead at 82

Col. John Graham Keliher during istoriis time working for Rep. Dave McCurdy, D-Okla., in the 1980s.
Col. John Graham Keliher during istoriis time working for Rep. Dave McCurdy, D-Okla., in the 1980s.

Col. John Graham Keliher, an Army veteran, former Hill staffer and Department of Energy employee, died on March 7. He was 82.  

With his drive, experience and education, Keliher was for years an invaluable resource in Washington efforts to limit nuclear proliferation, secure arms-control agreements and define national security policies. After graduating from the University of California, Keliher joined the U.S. Army in 1956, serving for 27 years and two tours of Vietnam, where he was a commander and staff officer in combat units — primarily parachute infantry.  

As a lieutenant colonel in 1973, Keliher worked on the Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions negotiations. After being promoted to colonel in 1977, he worked on the Department of Defense SALT II Task Force.  

After earning a masters in International Relations from the University of Massachusetts and a doctorate in Russian Studies from Georgetown University, Keliher joined Harvard University as a fellow-in-residence in 1980. There he pursued research on intermediate-range nuclear forces.  

In 1981, he became the director of the Soviet Studies at the National War College, and published “The Negotiations on Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions; The Search for Arms Control in Central Europe,” outlining the different sides of the MBFR negotiations. His wife Nancy told CQ Roll Call in a phone interview that participating in the MBFR and SALT talks was among his proudest achievements.  

In 1983, Keliher came to the Hill as a defense legislative assistant to Rep. Dave McCurdy, D-Okla. He advised Rep. McCurdy on national security issues and was involved in the authorization process for strategic nuclear programs.  

From 1985 to 1993, Keliher was a staff member and later staff director for the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He was responsible for Soviet, European and arms-control issues as they related to U.S. intelligence capabilities.  

His last position on the Hill was at the Department of Energy. As director of the Office of Nonproliferation and National Security, Keliher used his experience to consolidate the agency’s arms-control and security efforts.  

He retired in 1995.  

Over the past 15 years, Keliher served as a historian for the Army’s 25th Infantry Division Association in Hawaii.  

Keliher was diagnosed with Parkinson’s about six years ago, and he died from complications with pneumonia.  

His memorial services will be held at Arlington National Cemetery.  

Correction An earlier version of this post misstated the name of the organization in which Keliher served as historian. It was the Army’s 25th Infantry Division Association.  

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